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

Civilian Casualties – A Highly Concerning Issue

The Taliban’s escalated militancy has led to heavy civilian casualties. The ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban group in Qatar’s capital Doha could not persuade the group to reduce violence or stop spilling the blood of civilians. Since civilian fatality toll has increased in the wake of the Taliban’s intensified attacks, the people of Afghanistan are highly concerned and disappointed in the result of peace talks. 
Afghans believe that the Taliban have not come to the table with genuine intention for putting an end to decades of war and violence. But they seek to haggle over political positions at the peace table.
On the surface, it seemed that regional and global stakeholders would push the Taliban to reduce violence so as to pave the ground for reaching an agreement. Neighboring states, including Pakistan, said they would put their weight behind the negotiations. But their leverage on the Taliban is not felt. As a result, Afghans bear the brunt of militancy.
It is self-explanatory that the Taliban have been engaged in killing Afghan civilians for decades without an iota of mercy. They killed women and children in cold blood. The life of Afghan civilians carry no significance for the Taliban. People’s life has turned so cheap for their fighters. They kill non-combatants without the fear of being prosecuted.
Fawzia Koofi, a member of the government’s negotiating team, once told me that there would be controversy and disagreement between the Taliban political leaders and their fighters. But she said the disagreement would be over women’s rights. I believe that this disagreement will be not only regarding women’s rights but also peace talks and reduction of violence. The Taliban seem less likely to be able to persuade their fighters to stop killing people. It is feared that the Taliban group will be splintered after the peace agreement is signed between its leadership and the Afghan government.
Needless to say, if the Taliban continue their militancy and turn a deaf ear to the demands of Afghan people, talks will reach a stalemate. Meanwhile, Afghans will lose their trust in the negotiations. With this in mind, the Trump administration has to push the Taliban to reduce violence and reach an agreement with the Kabul administration.
The Taliban have never accepted the public demands or those of their representatives. Afghans – including peace marchers, civil society activists, and women rights activists – called on the Taliban to declare ceasefire and reduce violence. But the Taliban never heard their voice.
The generosity of the Afghan government has been constantly capitalized on. It is believed that the Taliban’s released prisoners have returned to the battlefields. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai also released a number of the Taliban prisoners during his presidential period, but they also joined their group in the fight against his administration.
I have hardly ever been optimistic about the result of the peace process since the Taliban are unwilling to reduce their violence. They seek to gain concessions through the barrel of gun, which may be counterproductive and create formidable challenges. Regional states, mainly Pakistan, have reiterated on multiple occasions that non-violent mechanism will be the only solution to Afghanistan’s problems and the warring sides are able to reach a settlement through negotiations. If so, they should use their leverage on the Taliban not to increase their violence but declare ceasefire. Meanwhile, the Trump administration, which is in a hurry to withdraw its troops to gain credit in the upcoming presidential election, has to urge its international allies as well as regional stakeholders to press the Taliban for reduction of violence. Washington should also pressure the Taliban to honor their deal and end the killing of civilians.
Taliban leaders live in luxury houses outside Afghanistan and their fighters, who fell for the bogus claim of their leaders, lose their lives. If peace talks fail, they simply issue fatwa (religious decree) for intensification of violence. Therefore, they are not concerned about the failure of the talks and it is only Afghan people who suffer severely. The countries that host the Taliban leaders have to use their leverage on them to reach an agreement.
Killing civilians are against humanitarian law and the international community has to raise its voice against this act of violence. The world should stop playing the role of a viewer and take action against the Taliban at least through pressuring them to reduce violence and negotiate with genuine intention.
The Taliban should also note that killing civilians have no religious basis and their narrative of “jihad” is no more logical since foreign troops are preparing to withdraw from the country.