Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 24th, 2021

The Prospect and Contour of Peace Talks

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan voiced his concern about a hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan and reiterated Islamabad’s support for the peace process. The chairperson of High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah traveled to Pakistan, along with political dignitaries, to exchange views with Pakistani officials regarding peace and bilateral relations.
A hasty withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan has been a concerning issue for the people of Afghanistan as well as regional states, which fear the spillover. With the escalated militancy, Afghans were apprehensive about a hasty troop pullout and said the withdrawal of US troops had to be condition-based. A number of regional states were also concerned about a hasty withdrawal fearing the security vacuum would be filled by militant groups.
Despite the ongoing concerns, Washington is seeking to reduce the number of US troops from Afghanistan. It comes as the Taliban refuse to declare ceasefire, a demand which has been reiterated by Afghan state and nation as well as the international community.
Khan also reiterated “ceasefire” adding that peace and political stability in the country could not be imposed from the outside through the use of force. Only an Afghan-owned and led reconciliation process, which recognizes Afghanistan’s political realities and diversity, could produce a lasting peace.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad also said few days back that “it is imperative all sides reduce violence significantly” calling rise in violence “regrettable”.
As the government’s delegation and the Taliban team having face-to-face talks, the Taliban urge Kabul to recognize the US-Taliban peace agreement as the “mother deal” underlying the intra-Afghan talks. It is, however, unlikely to be accepted for few reasons. First, the US-Taliban agreement did not lead to peace or reduction of violence in Afghanistan. Some political analysts called it “withdrawal agreement” instead of peace deal. Second, since Afghanistan had no seat around the US-Taliban negotiating table and was not a party to deal, it is not acceptable. Afghanistan has its own preconditions and red-line. Thus, the Taliban’s persistence on this issue is irrational.
Afghan officials reiterated Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace talks on multiple occasions. But the terminology lost its significance with the start of US-Taliban negotiations, in which the Kabul government had no role. Meanwhile, Afghanistan also urged regional and global stakeholders to play their role in the peace process and use their leverage on the Taliban.
It is self-evident that the intra-Afghan dialogue will be highly contentious. The future political structure, women’s rights, and constitutional principles as well as democratic gains will be discussed in detail. There are still many individuals within the Taliban group practicing parochial mindset. With this in mind, there will be many controversial issues and the Taliban are likely to seek to impose their demands and mindset on their interlocutors, who will resist. There is possibility of deadlock, but it will be brokered by regional and global states.
To view the talks from Afghanistan’s ordinary people, there seems no clear landscape. The Taliban have intensified their attacks killing dozens of Afghan soldiers on day-to-day basis and destabilizing the country more than ever before. On the other hand, however, the number of suicide attacks in cities has been reduced as the Taliban seek to avoid public condemnation in the wake of killing civilians, although killing civilians has not been stopped. The people of Afghanistan fear the return of the Taliban since they suffered severely under their regime. That is to say, the Taliban could not reshape their figures or could not change the public perspective regarding their attitudes and practices. Afghan women are particularly concerned about the return of the Taliban. Afghans also believe that the Taliban and many Afghan politicians seek to ensure their political positions in the future government – be it at the cost of public rights or democratic gains. There are some conservative political figures who simply watch the talks and do not raise their voice against the Taliban – they are in pursuit of political positions.
There are many remarks about the moderation of the Taliban’s stance and mindset but have not been proved practically. A number of Afghans seek to remain hopeful arguing that the Taliban have been moderated. But their militants practice the way they did a couple of decades ago.
Based on aforementioned facts, the troop withdrawal has to be condition-based and the Taliban have to show their genuine intention in the talks through reduction of violence – which is said to be accepted by the Taliban – and declaration of permanent ceasefire, still resisted. The public voice and concerns should not fall on deaf ears. The negotiating sides have to respect the public demands and views.