Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 15th, 2021

Afghans Hope for Peace in 2020

Despite the public hope, the year 2019 has been replete with a myriad of challenges for Afghan people. Afghan civilians bore the brunt of violence and conflict and Afghan soldiers also sustained heavy casualties. Neither the US and Taliban negotiators reached an agreement nor the Taliban were pressured to start negotiations with the Afghan government.
With the beginning of each year, Afghans hope that peace talks will bear the desired result, which would lead to the establishment of peace and stability, however their hope is shattered with the Taliban’s relentless refusal to talk with Kabul and insatiable desire for spilling the blood of both combatants and non-combatants, including women and children.
Afghans’ pain and sufferings were not mitigated in 2019 since militancy continued unabated and human fatalities were really high. Although Afghan men and women as well as clerics called on the Taliban to reduce violence, but the Taliban turned a deaf ear to the public demands.
To one’s unmitigated chagrin, tragic stories and events in Afghanistan made the national and international headlines in 2019 and people showed despondency and despair.
Two issues have continued for many years: For the one, the rift between state and nation has widened since the public have lost their trust in the officials, who exchanged harsh rhetoric against each other and revealed their differences to the public.
Second, each Afghan believes that the Taliban continue a proxy war and are unlikely to reduce violence unless their supporters and organizers agree. With the growing hatred against the Taliban, Afghans are ready to pay sacrifices so that their rights and freedoms were not compromised at the negotiating table and the republicanism would not be replaced by the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate”.  Article 149 of Afghan Constitution also stipulates, “The principles of adherence to the tenets of the Holy religion of Islam as well as Islamic Republicanism shall not be amended. Amending fundamental rights of the people shall be permitted only to improve them.”
It is evident that the Taliban leadership understands the public hatred against it and, in turn, did not agree to participate in presidential election held in late September. In other words, the Taliban are aware of the fact that Afghans, who have suffered under their regime and sustained heavy casualties in the wake of their indiscriminate attacks, will not cast their votes in their support. Therefore, they urge establishment of “Islamic Emirate”, which indicates the Taliban’s dominant role without election.
With the ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and US representatives, Afghans hope that the two sides will reach an agreement so that the Taliban start negotiating with the Kabul administration. The people of Afghanistan also hold out hope that the Taliban will reduce violence in 2020 and stop shedding the blood of civilians.
The US-Taliban talks have reached a critical juncture and the two sides are likely to reach a peace deal in 2020. After the peace agreement, the Trump administration will reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan and the Taliban will, in addition to guaranteeing that Afghan soil will not be used against any states by al-Qaeda, will start negotiation with Kabul.
The Afghan government is also hopeful that talks with the Taliban will start since it has formed a negotiating team and will disclose the list after the US and Taliban finalize their agreement. It indicates a strong sense of hope for intra-Afghan dialogue to be started soon.
However, there are two problematic issues: First, a national consensus has not been formed and political figures, who say that they were not consulted for the formation of the negotiating team, disapprove of the list. Thus, this issue is still a bone of contention between the government and political figures and its inclusiveness is a matter of question. 
Second, if the Taliban bargain over higher price with the Afghan government, peace talks may reach a stalemate. The likely thorny talks would cover issues including women’s rights, freedom of speech and constitutional changes – and would ultimately decide what a post-war Afghanistan will look like. These issues seem highly controversial and time-consuming.
But what is generating hope is the strong determination and seriousness of Kabul and Washington for talks. Meanwhile, the Taliban group has realized the fact that it will not win the war through violence and bloodshed.
With the start of 2020, there is still hope and optimism for peace and stability despite all the drawbacks. All three sides – Kabul, Washington, and the Taliban – have to put all their efforts to reach an agreement and put an end to 18-year-old conflict.