Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Ifs and Buts Emerge with Resumption of Talks in Qatar

The Taliban and US representatives have resumed their negotiations in Doha, three months after the US President Donald Trump called off the talks. Before the resumption of the talks, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad had traveled to Kabul, where he met President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. The resumption of the talks was on the cards since the United States and Taliban have been talking informally. But Kabul has still been out of the loop.
Both Afghan officials and people persisted the engagement of Kabul administration in the talks stating that the marginalization of Kabul would neither lead to peace nor safeguard the democratic gains of the country. Meanwhile, Afghan women feared that if Kabul was not entered in the talks, their rights and freedom would be compromised at the table. Therefore, they showed their concerns and urged the United States not to disregard the presence of Afghan representatives in the talks.
In the meantime, regional stakeholders, including Iran and China, reaffirmed their support to intra-Afghan dialogue and urge for the inclusion of Kabul in the negotiations.
However, it is believed that Khalilzad had persuaded President Ghani that first the United States and the Taliban would strike a deal, then Kabul would hold direct talks with the Taliban leadership. 
Before the cancellation of the talks by Trump, the US and Taliban drafted an agreement which was to deal with the timeline of US troop withdrawal and with a commitment from the Taliban of not allowing the Afghan soil to be used by terrorist groups against other countries. Nonetheless, there was no word either on the ceasefire or intra-Afghan dialogue in that proposed deal.
Taliban group, throughout the peace process, has maintained that it would discuss the ceasefire and intra-Afghan dialogue only once its deal with the United States is finalized.
It is not yet clear if the renewed discussion will lead to peace. Key disputes still need to be resolved, including the Taliban’s refusal to talk directly with the Afghan government. And, contrary to what Trump said last week, there are no signs the Taliban is ready for a ceasefire – a condition has long been a sticking point for the insurgent group, which primarily uses violence as leverage.
It is self-explanatory that the Taliban outfit is unable to emerge victorious, for as long as the NATO forces continue to finance Afghanistan’s military and continue conducting air strikes.
The NATO leaders have reassured to continue its supports to the Afghanistan National Security Defense Forces as the peace talks restart.
Gen John Nicholson, a former commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has cautioned against entering into a deal with the Taliban that does not bind the insurgents to cease nationwide hostilities or reduce the level of violence. “The ceasefire on the part of the Taliban, as some of them have said publicly, reduces their leverage. Well, a troop withdrawal on the part of the coalition reduces our military leverage,” Nicholson is cited as saying.
The Kabul government hopes that the US-Taliban talks will pave the way for intra-Afghan dialogue and reduction of violence as well as intra-Afghan negotiations and a ceasefire are likely to be the focus of the talks in Doha.
A Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said, “The talks started from where they were stopped. We discussed the signing of the agreement and related matters.”
Three issues should be considered in the talks so that Afghanistan’s peace and stability could not be at stake. First, the troop withdrawal should be gradual and according to the demand of the time. If foreign troops withdraw completely, a vacuum will emerge that would not be filled easily. To this end, it is feared that it will make the country a volatile breeding ground for civil war as it occurred with the sudden and complete withdrawal of the Soviet Union forces from Afghanistan in late 1980s.
Second, the Taliban has to reduce violence and hold direct talks with the Kabul administration. Regional and global stakeholders have to pressure the Taliban leadership to reduce violence and negotiate with Afghan representatives.
Third, the Taliban has to respect the Afghan democratic gains as well as constitutional principles, including the rights and liberties of people and equality of men and women. In other words, the Taliban should not seek to impose its mindset on Afghan people once more since Afghans are not ready to accept its strict rule of sharia, which leaves no room for democratic principles. In short, peace talks are supposed to generate sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan and maintain Afghans rights and liberties. If talks put Afghans rights and liberties at stake or threaten their democratic gains, they would not be acceptable to the public.