Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, February 24th, 2020

Trilateral Agreement Likely to Result in Peace

The Afghan future government is likely to focus on peace talks, which have been a highly controversial issue. With the start of negotiations between the Taliban and US representatives to end the 18-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, there were many ifs and buts, which slowed down the process.
The Taliban have held out against negotiation with the Afghan government, except for holding informal talks, and, once promised Afghan political leaders to reduce violence against civilians, but did not fulfill it. The Taliban’s main demand was the immediate and full withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan and, on their part, promised not to cede linkage with al-Qaeda. The Taliban negotiators said that they would talk with Kabul after signing a peace deal with the United States. Vis-à-vis women’s rights and Afghanistan’s democratic Constitution, the Taliban said they had moderated their idea and would allow women to work outside.
The US negotiating team urged the Taliban to reduce violence, negotiate with the Kabul government, and give assurance to end terror sanctuaries.
The Afghan government, without any preconditions, called on the Taliban leadership on multiple occasions to hold-intra Afghan dialogue, which the Taliban resisted so far. But both the Afghan nation and state have defined red line that include: Practicing upon Afghan Constitution, respecting the democratic achievements of the nation within almost two decades, and not restricting the social and political role of women under the ambiguous term of “Sharia Law”.
Meanwhile, Afghan clerics and Ulema Council as well as ordinary people have urged the Taliban to reduce violence and declare truce with the government, but the Taliban have turned a deaf ear to their demands, too.
There are a number of challenges before the peace talks. For the one, conflict continues unabated despite the ongoing negotiations and the Taliban have not proved their sincere intention in the talks. They continued targeting both combatants and non-combatants, which created a pause in the talks with the US’ side two times. Second, the Taliban have always haggled over high price at the table, without accepting the preconditions of their US interlocutors. Third, there is mistrust between the negotiating teams and it is feared that the Taliban will continue their link with al-Qaeda group and do not reduce violence even after signing a deal with Washington.
The Taliban conditioned talks with Kabul after signing a deal with the United States and ensured that Afghanistan would not be a safe haven for al-Qaeda. They are discussing declaration of a ceasefire with their top leadership in Pakistan. Declaring a ceasefire is likely to generate optimism for fruitful talks for both the US side and Afghan people.
Nonetheless, negotiation with Kabul is a precondition set by Washington to be accepted before signing a peace deal. In short, the peace deal should be trilateral including the Taliban, United States, and Kabul administration.
The people of Afghanistan also view the Taliban with doubt and mistrust. Afghan people, mainly women, fear that the return of the Islamic Emirate would put their rights and freedoms, stated in the constitution, at stake. Women also fear that the Taliban would impose restriction on their social and political activities despite claiming moderation in their ideology. So far, the Taliban have not proved the moderation of their ideology to the Afghan people and women sustain restrictions in the wake of their harsh ideology in the Taliban-dominated areas, which has generated more fear and mistrust. In other words, the Taliban have not negotiated with genuine intention and are likely to play a foul game at the peace table. They still practice fundamental ideology, hold restrictive attitude towards women, continue their militancy, and kill civilians. To this end, all segments of Afghan society have their concerns about the return of the Islamic Emirate and fluctuate between hope and fear regarding the outcome of the talks.
Peace talks seem to be top priority for the Kabul government. However, if the Taliban continue turning down Kabul’s olive branch, the US-Taliban ongoing talks are unlikely to bear the desired result, in turn, peace will remain elusive.
The Trump administration is going to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan before reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban, which shows Washington’s seriousness in the talks.
To reach an agreement, the Taliban leadership has to prove its seriousness and genuine intention through reducing violence, starting negotiations with Kabul, and not bargaining over higher price.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government should reach national consensus and form an inclusive team to negotiate with the Taliban.