Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

Troop Pullout Needs to be Condition-based

The longer the start of intra-Afghan dialogue is delayed the more challenges are likely to emerge. The peace process is being complicated and the Taliban trigger public hatred through intensifying their attacks against the people of Afghanistan.
With further postponement of the intra-Afghan dialogue, the peace process is likely to reach a stalemate for few reasons: first, the US administration is seeking a hasty withdrawal of its troops regardless of the fragile security situation in Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump has reduced the number of American troops and may intend to carry out a complete withdrawal to tell his nation that he has fulfilled his commitment. However, the US troop pullout will embolden the Taliban group, which will carry out more attacks to gain concessions at the negotiating table. Second, the possible death of the Taliban’s leader Mullah Haibatullah will also trigger discord between and within their rank and file and their leadership. To this end, the Taliban splinter group will be reinforced. Third, with the Taliban’s intensified attacks, the peace process will be at stake. If the Taliban militants do not reduce their violence, the intra-Afghan dialogue will reach a cul-de-sac as the Afghan soldiers will be compelled to intensify their defensive and offensive attacks.
After the signature of peace talks between the US and Taliban group, militancy has increased. The Taliban have violated its deal with Washington through not reducing their violence or discontinuing their ties with Al-Qaeda. But contrary to this act, the US has reduced the number of American troops and fulfilled the first phase of its commitment.
Worst, the meetings and video conferences being held between the Afghan leaders and regional and global actors regarding peace process still do not bear tangible results. Heavyweight stakeholders, including Pakistan and Russia, are unwilling to put pressure on the Taliban in order to reduce violence or start formal talks with the Kabul administration. Both Russia and Pakistan concentrate on the US troop withdrawal regardless of the security situation in the country ignoring the fact that if political turmoil and insecurity snowball in Afghanistan, the neighboring countries will not be safe from its spillover, either. Meanwhile, Moscow should understand that Afghans will not accept that Russia will fill the security vacuum after the withdrawal of foreign troops.
The Trump administration should also note that a hasty withdrawal is likely to undo the blood and treasure invested in the country within the past two decades. The White House should doubt the Taliban and its troop pullout has to be condition-based. In other words, if Trump steps up the withdrawal process despite the Taliban’s continued militancy, he cannot show a triumph card to his nation and the troop pullout will not be recorded in the Trump’s list of achievements.
General Kenneth McKenzie, chief of US Central Command, said before there could be a greatly reduced US presence in Afghanistan, intra-Afghan talks are needed to start and the US would need to be assured that the Taliban would not host Islamic State and Al-Qaeda terrorist groups, potentially allowing them to carry out attacks on the West.
The people of Afghanistan have their red line in the talks and their concerns and voices should be heard. Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said in his recent statement that Afghans would never give a Taliban emirate supremacy over the republic, and the Taliban should know that the people will make the final decision. He also called on clerics to urge the Taliban to reduce violence.
The release of prisoners is one of the Taliban’s preconditions for the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue. Both the Taliban and the Kabul government have to step up the release of prisoners. Although the Taliban insist on their preconditions, they have not fulfilled any preconditions maintained in their peace deal with Washington, including reduction in violence.
The Taliban should note that Afghan people back the government’s stance and the Taliban’s acts of violence, despite their deal with Washington, has concerned the public to a great extent. The Taliban will not be able to impose their radical ideology on the public even if they continue their insurgency since Afghan men and women supported democratic principles through their active participation in the political decision-makings as well as elections. Hence, the Taliban should stop violence and sit across from the Afghan negotiating team.
In the meantime, regional and global actors have to put pressure on the Taliban leadership to honor their deal with Washington through reducing violence and declaring ceasefire to pave the ground for the intra-Afghan dialogue. In short, regional and global stakeholders need to engage more practically in the Afghan peace process and prove their sincerity rather than holding futile meetings and videoconferences or making bombastic statements since continued and escalated militancy will be a threat not only to Afghanistan but to the entire region.