Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, September 28th, 2020

Fear of Obstacles Before Talks Amid Optimism

Optimism has re-emerged regarding the US-Taliban talks after the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said that the two sides had agreed on reduction in violence. However, it “cannot be guaranteed” and there are still obstacles before the process.
After the peace accord is signed between the Taliban and US representatives, the intra-Afghan dialogue will be started, which is highly promising for Afghan people.
Nonetheless, there are few hurdles challenging the process. For the one, since the start of the US-Taliban talks in Doha, progress was cited on multiple occasions and Afghans hoped that the 18-year war would be ended within months and the Taliban would reduce violence, at least against civilians. However, neither the Taliban decreased their attacks nor a peace deal was signed between the two sides. To this end, Afghans lost their trust in the process.
Second, a national consensus was not formed within the government. That is, Afghan officials and heads of political parties have not reached an agreement on formation of an inclusive negotiating team. The team formed by the Ghani administration is not acceptable to the political leaders. Head of Hezbe-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said that the team, formed by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, was not comprehensive suggesting that the team should be composed of the three leading electoral tickets – Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, and Hekmatyar – as well as former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He believed that if an inclusive national team was not formed, the US troop pullout would lead to civil unrest similar to that of the former Soviet Union. Referring to lack of national consensus, Hekmatyar said that some sought to mar the process.
It is believed that Hekmatyar’s proposal for forming the negotiating team for intra-Afghan dialogue is not comprehensive, either. To form a national inclusive team, all segments of the society, including women, civil society activists, tribal elders, and religious figures, have to be engaged in the talks.
It is self-explanatory that women are highly concerned about the outcome of the peace talks and urged to be involved in the talks. Since Hekmatyar is a radical jihadi leader with parochial mindset, he is unlikely to support the engagement of women in the process. It should be noted that if a segment of the society is marginalized from the talks intentionally or unintentionally, a comprehensive team would be missing.
Third, although some regional stakeholders, including Germany and Norway, are willing to support the Afghan peace process, a number of global actors are less concerned about the process and do not engage actively. Since the US-Taliban talks have reached a significant stage, global powers and regional stakeholders have to use their leverage and push for a deal to end the conflict, which will be proved fruitful for global peace and stability.
The Taliban accept reduction in violence for a week but is unlikely to accept a transient ceasefire. In other words, the Taliban leadership seeks not to derail the process but the gap between its political leaders and military generals would be the main reason behind their refusal to declare a ceasefire.
To overcome the challenges, all sides have to review their stances. The Taliban leadership has to put pressure on its military generals and rank and file to comply its decision. That is, military generals should not be able to affect the Taliban’s political decisions.
On the other hand, Afghan officials and political leaders have to form an inclusive negotiating team with consultation. It is said that President Ghani will start “a series of consultations” with the Afghan national Defense and Security Forces, the civil society, and political leaders next week to discuss the contours of the peace talks. If the Afghan government and political leaders fail to form a national team, the peace process is likely to reach deadlock. Meanwhile, the Taliban will also capitalize on the issue of political discord between Afghan leaders and politicians. Noticing discord within the government, the Taliban will continue their ifs, ands, and buts. 
Regarding global actors, Germany has declared its preparation to support the Afghan peace process pointing out that it would also stand with the Afghan state and nation to maintain Afghanistan’s past achievements, including women’s rights. Afghan officials and ordinary people expect all global actors and regional stakeholders to support the process so as to end the conflict, which has taken its toll on Afghan soldiers and civilians.
In short, if national and international consensus is formed to push the peace process forward, talks will lead to desired result putting an end to the conflict.