Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Taliban’s Goodwill is in Doubt

Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban make national and international headlines and US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad talks optimistically about the outcome urging both sides to sit around the table without delay. But the Taliban fighters are widely engaged in insurgency raising fear of scuttling the talks.
The Taliban fighters continue their hit-and-run strategy and have recently engaged in systematic killings of peace activists to create obstacles to the start of intra-Afghan dialogue. Other insurgent parties are also likely to be involved in derailing the intra-Afghan dialogue.
The Taliban have filled the public air with fear and concerns with the intensification of their attacks despite preparation for the start of intra-Afghan dialogue. The consultative assembly held earlier this month approved the release of Taliban hardcore fighters, but the Taliban have not shown any goodwill. They simply heighten the wall of mistrust and fear through their lukewarm responses to Afghanistan’s goodwill and generous acts. 
In the first meeting with the Taliban, Afghan negotiating team intends to discuss ceasefire and reduction in violence, which seem to be at the bottom of the Taliban’s list of agenda. In his recent statement, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said that “all barriers and excuses have been removed” urging the Taliban to reduce violence and be a part of the peace process. He said, “We have prepared all conditions for a peace with dignity.” He reiterated declaration of ceasefire and start of intra-Afghan talks. Ghani pointed out that peace was not socialized among the Taliban fighters and military commanders.
For many years, Afghan political, social, and civil parties have called on the Taliban to reduce violence, but the Taliban turned a deaf ear to their demands. To put it succinctly, Afghans reiterate peace and ceasefire; whereas the Taliban focus on war and violence. Afghan side paved the ground for talks and reconciliation, but the Taliban sought to scuttle the process.
To prove their genuine intention, if there exists ever, the Taliban have to stop systemic killings of peace activists, reduce violence, and focus on the start of intra-Afghan dialogue.
On the other hand, the Afghan government has to build a national consensus, adopt a united front, and seek to build an international consensus with the support of the United States and its international allies so that the intra-Afghan dialogue is started soon.
The Taliban have to honor the demands and red-line of Afghan people and consider few issues that Afghan state and nation have pointed out on multiple occasions: (1) The Taliban have to reduce violence and declare ceasefire, which were also reiterated in the resolution issued by Afghan representatives in consultative assembly. (2) The Taliban have to assure permanent ceasefire and disarmament of their rank and file. (3) They have to assure that the rights and liberties of Afghan people, mainly those of women, will be respected and protected based on constitutional law. (4) The Taliban will not restrict women’s freedoms as well as their rights to work and education, adopt a moderate approach towards women, and will not seek to impose their radical ideology on Afghan men and women. (5) The Taliban will respect Afghan Constitution, which was also endorsed by Afghan heavyweight clerics. (6) The Taliban will respect the past achievements of the people of Afghanistan and will not seek to undo the democratic gains. (7) The Taliban will return to Afghanistan along with their families and will not let their backers to interfere in the internal issues of Afghanistan. (8) The Taliban will not seek to monopolize power but reintegrate into the government with respect to national law. (9) The political structure of Afghanistan will be crafted on the basis of referendum and public will. (10) Within the government structure, the Taliban will fight against any terrorist groups operating on the Afghan soil. (11) The Taliban will operate for the improvement of Afghanistan in all sectors and will struggle for national solidarity and cementing ties between and within all ethnic and religious groups in the country.
The demands and conditions of Afghan side is transparent and logical. If the Taliban are genuine in the peace talks, they have to accept the aforementioned demands, which will lead to permanent peace and will be in the interests of both sides.
The Taliban should stop creating obstacles to the peace talks and show goodwill to the process. If the Taliban are ever in pursuit of peace, they have to respect the public demands and stop their escalated insurgency. The US and its international allies have to put pressure on the Taliban to start intra-Afghan dialogue and reach an agreement with the Afghan government.