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

Concern over Vulnerability of Peace Talks

With the declaration of “reduction in violence”, Afghans optimistically hopes that the United States and Taliban will hammer out a peace agreement at the end of the month, which will pave the ground for the intra-Afghan dialogue.
The partial truce was expected to give a much-needed respite to civilians, who have long borne the brunt of the bloody war. However, the Taliban, despite declaring reduction in violence, have carried out attacks in several districts. If the Taliban do not reduce violence, two issues will be indicated: For the one, it indicates that the Taliban leadership is unable to control their rank and file and the gap between the Taliban leaders and military generals would be no more doubted. It will damage the Taliban’s credibility.
Second, the US-Taliban talks will be deadlocked. If the talks reach a stalemate, the Taliban will face the horrible consequences and pressured by the US and its allies.
Meanwhile, the genuine intention of the Taliban for peace will come under question. The Taliban’s sincere intention was already viewed with doubt. If the Taliban continue their attacks regardless of declaration of reduction in violence, they will be viewed as game players rather than genuine negotiators.
On the other hand, Pakistani political analysts and officials have claimed that Islamabad brokered the US-Taliban talks and put its weight behind the process genuinely. But if the Taliban do not decrease their insurgency within this week, Pakistan will also be viewed with mistrust.
The relation between Islamabad and Washington was cemented for Pakistan’s role in the peace talks. The US expects Pakistan to play its role sincerely in the talks through using its leverage on the Taliban leadership, and Pakistan, on its part, seeks concessions. To this end, if peace talks are marred, the US-Pakistan relations will sour. It is in the interest of Pakistan to pressure the Taliban to fulfill their promise through practicing upon the reduction-in-violence declaration. 
It is also a welcome sign that the Taliban have accepted to hold negotiations with the Kabul administration after a peace deal is signed with Washington. The start of intra-Afghan dialogue will generate more optimism for the emergence of peace. In fact, any sustainable peace in Afghanistan is unlikely to succeed unless the process is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, and all segments of the society, including women and tribal elders, are all on board.
What unsettles the ongoing peace process is the issue of mistrust between many involved parties. First, there is mistrust between the US and the Taliban. It is feared if the Taliban do not practice upon the agreement, after it is signed between the two sides, the trust deficit will loom large. 
Second, Afghans also view the Taliban with doubt and are not sure if they change their hardline approach regarding people’s rights. First, the Taliban are still not clear about their approach and there is much ambiguity with their terminology as they reiterate women’s freedoms within the Islamic frame – not clear whether moderate interpretation or that of the Taliban.
Third, there is also lack of trust between Afghan officials and political leaders, which has been compounded after the announcement of election result. For instance, formation of an inclusive and comprehensive team to talk with the Taliban has been a bone of contention between the Afghan government and heads of political parties.
The Taliban should act more wisely in the current sensitive juncture and reduce their violence as they have declared or else the peace process will be damaged. The demand for weeklong reduction in violence is a testing period for the Taliban group whether or not it will fulfill its commitment. If the Taliban group fails to control their rank and file, the ten rounds of talks between the group and the US will be all in vain. It is believed that even if the Taliban outfit could not control their military generals to reduce violence within the week, it would not confess it. In short, if the partial trust is collapsed between the negotiating sides, it will take much time to repair it.
If Pakistan supports the agreement to be signed between the US and the Taliban, it has to pressure the Taliban leadership to fulfill its commitment and stop their offensives.
It is evident that talks have reached a very critical stage and will be sought to be spoiled by whistle-blowers. With this in mind, all involved parties should try to fulfill their commitments and leave no stone unturned to end the 18-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, which has brought many dead and destruction.