Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Will Peace Emerge without Kabul and Regional Stakeholders?

Prospects for a political settlement of Afghan conflict could be more promising if all sides understand that the present deadlock is by no means an accident and military means could hardly make breakthrough. Serious political attitude and pragmatic compromise need to be taken for making substantial progress and possibly breakthroughs. The first step toward serious peace talks should be a pragmatically flexible handling of positions in turning preconditions into objectives to be realized, and thereby lay a groundwork further substantial peace talks. In such a situation, all sides could make comprehensive calculations of specific demands of the other side, and try everything to find a most acceptable meeting point.
As to the conflicting demands of “complete and immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops” and “quit of violence,” one would have to acknowledge that it is unrealistic and much unlikely to have unconditional withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, nor for Taliban to demilitarize itself at present. However, the US and its allies has started gradual and conditional withdrawal/reduction of their troops. If Taliban could in turn bring down its expectations in a pragmatic way and made positive response to such a latest development, and reduce its insurgent offensives as well as try to reach a transient ceasefire agreement with its adversary, the reconciliation process could thereby make a substantial step forward.
Dr. Zeng Xiangyu, a professor in Institute of South Asian Studies at Sichuan University said that the most difficult challenge could be “to abide by Afghan Constitution” and “the return of Shariat,” a pair of conflicting demands determining the future framework of Afghan politics and being directly interlinked with political position and prospects of each side. He added, “Kabul would hardly quit its mostly secular and modernization-oriented Constitution, as it is of vital importance for its own survival. Taliban in turn could ill-afford quitting the ‘return of Shariat,’ a ‘divine’ objective it has struggled for years, because this could be a price unbearable for itself considering the possible loss of popularity among conservative forces, and the nightmare scenario of disbandment of itself.”
He further believed that there could be some possible ways out in this regard, despite seemingly a mission impossible. One of the effective ways, I believe, is the active engagement of global powers and regional states in Afghanistan’s peace process. In addition to the constructive engagement of the Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, some global powers, which have experience in resolving regional tensions, including Norway, should put their weight behind Afghanistan’s peace process.
The resumption of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States, as struggles are underway, is a positive and promising move, but it will not be enough. The Kabul government and Afghan nation urged both the Taliban leadership and US to include Afghanistan in the talks. As a result, the prisoners’ swap, made by the Kabul government, was intended to pave the ground for direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban. But it seems that Washington failed to persuade the Taliban to come to the table with the Kabul administration before reaching a peace deal with its US interlocutors.
Meanwhile, Pakistan also seems unwilling to put pressure on the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government since the trust deficit still lingers between Kabul and Islamabad.
It is believed that the inclusion of the Kabul government in the talks could act as catalyst since Afghan political figures know more about the Taliban and their demands. What if US-Taliban talks could reach a stalemate once more after the resumption?
There are three effective way to push the peace process forward: First, the inclusion of the Kabul government will be productive. If a deal is signed between the Taliban and Washington without being acceptable to the Afghan people, it will not lead to peace. Thus, there should be a trilateral agreement.
Second, global powers and regional stakeholders have to be engaged in the process so that they could use their leverage on the Taliban leadership.
Third, the United States have to put pressure on the countries, which have significant leverage on the Taliban, to press the Taliban leadership to make their demands more reasonable and reduce violence as a goodwill gesture for the talks. If the Taliban group continues bargaining at the table, the talks are unlikely to bear the desired result.
In short, the backdoor talks/deals between the Taliban and Washington are not really promising for the Afghan people since they, including men and women, urge for the inclusion of the Afghan government.