Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, December 4th, 2020

The Public Have Dark Picture of the Talks

Within the last few weeks, Afghan officials have said that peace talks would start soon and the schedule was delayed several times. The chairman of the High Council of National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, said in his recent statement that the Afghan negotiating team and the Taliban would sit across from each other in the next few days.
Afghan officials and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad have said that obstacles to peace talks were removed. But the talks have not been started and both sides are silent about the reason.
The Taliban appear to be the main reason behind the postponement of the intra-Afghan dialogue as their negotiating members were in Pakistan at the time that talks were supposed to start in the Qatari capital of Doha. On the other hand, the escalated militancy also shows the lukewarm response of the Taliban’s military commanders to the talks and their leadership would also approve of their fighters’ intensified attacks. Based on a source, however, the Taliban’s financial budget has been reduced and their fighters get lower payment. Therefore, the Taliban pressure locals to give them room and board. Perhaps, the Taliban’s supporters reduce their financial support to the Taliban to decrease the level of violence.
With the postponement of peace talks and intensification of their militancy, it appears that the Taliban seek to impose their will on the people of Afghanistan and gain concessions at the negotiating table as they gained much concessions, including the release of their hardcore fighters, in the talks with the United States.
In the talks, the Taliban still have backup from their supporters, and they are likely to consult the state/states, where they enjoy safe havens and have their councils. However, Afghan officials have reiterated that the talks should be within Afghans and nothing have to be imposed from outside.
Initially, the US said it would support “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led” talks – the terms changed after the US-Taliban negotiations – but the Afghan government was marginalized and the Taliban gained really great concessions.
As the intra-Afghan dialogue is about to start, the Taliban still act in a secretive way. They postpone the talks without saying the reason, their demands are not transparent, and their approach and attitude are unpredictable. Meanwhile, their negotiating team met with Pakistani officials and stayed in Pakistan for many days.
Afghans are in a state of confusion as there is no clear picture about the peace talks. Lack of transparency and the Taliban’s unpredictable and harsh practices create fear and disappointment as ordinary Afghans talk darkly about the outcome of the talks, compounded with the lack of consensus between some political leaders.
Marking the 19th anniversary of the death of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the first vice president Amrullah Saleh said that peace did not mean compromising values adding that the government would approach the negotiations from a strong position. Saleh maintained, “We will participate in the talks from a strong position. We would make the enemy realize that a republic system is not a system of a few individuals – it has 34 provinces and the people have sacrificed for it. The Taliban should remember that the peace negotiations are not about a surrender to their desires or compromising these values.”
On the anniversary of Massoud’s martyrdom, Afghan officials – including Abdullah, Karim Khalili, and Amrullah Saleh – all urged the Taliban to respect the republic system and listen to the voice of Afghan people. Meanwhile, Ahmad Wali Massoud, the head of the Massoud Foundation, said that war had been imposed on Afghanistan, but resistance would continue for the defense of the country. He added that the country needed to engage in direct discussions with Islamabad to help end the conflict in Afghanistan.
It is self-explanatory that Afghan officials and ordinary people support the republic system as well as democratic principles. Afghans really paid heavy sacrifices in institutionalizing democracy and human rights in the country. Women played a highly instrumental role in supporting democracy as well as human rights and women’s rights and freedoms. With this in mind, no sector of the society would support a sharia-based system with interpretation based on parochial mindset.
Both negotiating sides, mainly the Taliban, have to respect the demands of the public and establish a government based on their will and aspiration rather than imposing their own mindset on the people of Afghanistan.
The Taliban have to stop delaying the talks and sit across from the Afghan negotiating team. They have to be transparent and logical and respond to the public concerns positively.