Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 28th, 2020

You Can Bring a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make it Drink

Signing peace agreement between a state and a militant group seems usual in international law since agreement is signed between states, international organizations, or states and international organizations. The United States and the Taliban signed a peace agreement earlier this year legitimizing the group and giving it political credibility. To one’s surprise, the group refused to recognize Afghanistan as a government and held out against coming to the table with the government’s negotiating team for years.
Taliban spokesperson Qari Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi said recently that the US forces had “violated the Doha agreement in various forms”. However, based on international law, an agreement between a state and a militant group seems confusing. The US has so far not made it clear whether the Taliban signed an agreement as a state in exile, a political group, or a militant group. The phrase repeated in the agreement “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban” is highly confusing. Recognizing the Taliban as “the Taliban” is unlikely to make sense. On the other hand, the group vowed not to “allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies”. How a militant group can be so sure to make such a commitment with the world’s most powerful state. Meanwhile, the Afghan government is mentioned as “the other side” in the agreement not as a government, which adds further complication. 
The Taliban should note that the participants of intra-Afghan talks have to discuss “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire” based on their agreement with the US. On the contrary, they have intensified their attacks against the Afghan government despite the ongoing talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar. That is to say, the Taliban’s escalated militancy and refusal to declare ceasefire are also a violation of their agreement with Washington.
In response to the Taliban, Col Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the US forces, denied that the strikes violated the deal. Reiterating a call for “all sides” to reduce violence, he said, “The entire world has witnessed the Taliban’s offensive operations in Helmand – attacks which injured and displaced thousands of innocent Afghan civilians.”
The Taliban have proved their goodwill neither at the negotiating table nor in areas under their control. They simply point their finger at their opponents without considering their own acts of violation. Afghan state and nation have called on the Taliban on multiple occasions to reduce violence and declare ceasefire, but they intensified their attacks, which show their lukewarm response to peace and stability. After signing peace agreement with Washington, Taliban’s claim for “jihad” is more meaningless and absurd, which was also maintained by Afghan second vice president Sarwar Danish.
If the Taliban continue their acts of violence and terror, the reconciliation process is likely to reach stalemate. In other words, the Taliban have to prove their genuine intention through reducing violence and stop seeking to push the peace process to deadlock, which will have horrible consequences for the people of Afghanistan, who still pay heavy sacrifices and are internally displaced. For instance, as the Taliban attacked Helmand, a large number of people were displaced and some civilians were killed. The Taliban’s “jihad” against their own compatriots makes no sense and has no religious justification. If the Taliban do not fight for power, they have to declare ceasefire since foreign forces are preparing to leave the country. But the Taliban haggle over political positions, which indicates their thirst for power.
The fact is that “you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. Bringing the Taliban to the peace table does not necessarily mean that peace and stability are ensured and the two sides will reach an agreement. The talks are a rocky road with many ups and downs. The question is that who will be able to twist the Taliban’s arm?
If the Taliban focus on monopolization of power or seek to impose their demands on the public, the peace talks are more likely to reach a cul-de-sac. Hence, intensification of violence will be counterproductive as it will create obstacles to reaching an agreement.
The Taliban also have to honor their deal with the US through reducing violence to pave the ground for peace. Afghans fear that the Taliban will violate their deal with Washington especially after the withdrawal of US troops. Talks will be productive if the two sides negotiate with genuine intention and try to remove every obstacle to the reconciliation process.