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

The Fragility of Peace Talks

Despite the prolonged talks between the US representatives and the Taliban, intra-Afghan dialogue has not been ushered in since the Taliban refused to hold talks with the Kabul administration. The prospect for US-Taliban peace deal has increased, which is most likely to result in intra-Afghan dialogue.
The Taliban interlocutors urged them on multiple occasions to reduce violence and declare a ceasefire. Recently, the Kabul government has called on the Taliban to declare truce saying that reduction of violence, accepted by the Taliban, is neither practical nor promising. The Taliban seem to have accepted reduction of violence in the wake of the cold climate, which restrict their operations and fighting capacity. In 2019, the Taliban declared their spring offensive despite the persistent call for reduction of violence.
The Taliban’s decision making is based on their fighters’ security, political ramifications, and religious suitability. They are unlikely to have decided for declaration of ceasefire after consulting their top leaders in Pakistan, following the US’ demand for truce. It indicates a gap between the Taliban political leaders and military commanders, predicted by political analysts.
The Taliban seek to continue a talk-talk and fight-fight approach until a deal is secured with the United States and their primary purpose is to ensure a full withdrawal of foreign troops.
It is feared that if the US and Taliban do not reach a peace deal within months, hurdles will emerge as a result of regional instability and escalating tension between Iran and the United States. The statement of Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman to Taliban’s political office, that the tension between Iran and US would not disrupt the peace talks has not allayed the fear of emerging obstacles. Shaheen is cited as saying, “The developments will not have a negative impact on the peace process because the US-Taliban peace agreement is finalized and only remains to be signed by the two sides.”
The two sides will discuss four issues: reduction of violence, ceasefire, troop withdrawal, and intra-Afghan dialogue. However, the details of the talks are not disclosed.
The Taliban see talks with the US and Kabul separately. The Taliban said that after signing a deal with their US interlocutors, talks with Kabul would start.
It is believed that intra-Afghan dialogue will be also highly time-consuming since the post-deal government and further details are to be discussed. The Taliban should show sincerity in the talks through declaring ceasefire, demanded by the Kabul government.
Washington should not withdraw its troops unless a deal is also completed between the Taliban and the Afghan government for several reasons: For the one, a vacuum will emerge, which would be filled by the Taliban fighters and make the peace process highly fragile. Without the military support of the foreign troops to the Afghan government, the Taliban are likely to intensify their militancy.
Second, the Taliban’s financial and military supporters would encourage them to haggle over higher price in their talks with the Afghan government, which would make reaching a deal harder. In such a case, the start of civil unrest is also likely.
Third, neither the Afghan government nor ordinary people will trust the Taliban to practice on the deal they sign with their US interlocutors.
With this in mind, all three groups should reach a peace agreement in which the pro-deal government be discussed in detail. Meanwhile, a third party – be it the United States or the international community – is needed to observe the pro-deal government and ensure that the Taliban group practices upon the agreement.
Political factions fear that formation of the Afghan negotiating team would be selective and not include heavyweight politicians. The government has to form a strong, inclusive, and expert team so that a defective and ambiguous deal is not signed. In other words, the deal to be signed between the government and the Taliban should include all details, including the media, freedom of expressions, Afghan Constitution, the rights and liberties of women, education, etc. Political factions, women’s representatives, Jihadi leaders, tribal elders, and religious scholars should be included in the talks. Afghans should reach a national consensus on the issue to catalyze an agreement.
Meanwhile, the Taliban faction has to disband itself after the deal through laying down their arms and integrating into the government.
Overall, if the Taliban maintain their rigid stance in the talks and do not declare ceasefire, reaching a deal would fall one step farther. In short, playing foul game, negotiating without genuine intention, haggling over higher price, and intensifying attack for further concessions will create further roadblocks to reaching a deal.