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

Growing Concern over Death Toll and Fragility of Talks

Doha talks are “fragile”, fatalities continue, and the withdrawal of US troops are likely to create vacuum. The Taliban play a political game through sitting across from the government’s negotiating team without intention of declaring ceasefire and their fighters intensified their attacks against the Ghani administration. Afghan clerics have said the Taliban’s acts of violence and terror are against Islamic tenets.
If the Taliban do not show their goodwill at the negotiating table, the Doha talks will come to stalemate. Afghan MPs said that the Taliban did not honor their deal with the United States as they refused to reduce violence or declare ceasefire and urged Washington to review its agreement with the Taliban leadership, which violated the deal. An MP asked the White House and the international community to reconsider their pledges with the Taliban since they continue violence. “It was based on the US promise that the Afghan government showed flexibility and released Taliban’s prisoners and now the US should remain committed to the Afghan government under the security pact the two countries have reached and refrain from deals behind the curtains,” Senate Chairman Fazal Hadi Muslimyar is cited as saying.
The Taliban’s escalated insurgency has led to heavy civilian casualties. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has reported that the overall civilian casualties figure for the first nine months of 2020 dropped by around 30 percent compared to the same period in 2019, but “the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking”. The UNAMA documented that Anti-Government Elements remained responsible for 58 percent. Calling on the Taliban not to use improvised explosive device and anti-personnel landmines, UNAMA “remains concerned about attacks deliberately targeting civilians, including education, health and humanitarian workers, members of the judiciary, tribal elders, religious leaders, and civilian government employees.”
The report also said that Pro-Government Forces were responsible for 28 percent of casualties.
Calling the Doha talks “fragile”, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “There is a historic opportunity for peace”. He added that the Taliban had to reduce the levels of violence to pave the ground for ceasefire and break all ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
The Taliban are said to have maintained their ties with al-Qaeda and continue their acts of violence with the support of other terrorist organizations. The MPs’ concern about violation of agreement by the Taliban are reasonable. The Taliban refused to decrease violence and Afghans fear that their leadership is unlikely to honor their deal with the United States, especially if the US troops withdraw from the country.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is concerned that the withdrawal of US troops is likely to create a security vacuum adding that he backed the US presence in the country. He maintained that the “US presence in Afghanistan contributes to stability in the country and their exit creates risks”.
Afghans are also apprehensive about the hasty withdrawal of US forces, which is reiterated by US President Donald Trump. The Taliban gained concessions in the talks with the United States as the names of their leaders were removed from the UN blacklist, their fighters were released from Afghanistan’s jails, and the US promised to withdraw its forces from the country, but the Taliban have so far gave nothing in return other than sitting across from the government’s negotiating team without genuine intention.
The Taliban’s active engagement in killing civilians have filled the air with hatred and disappointment. In other words, the Taliban have been violating the humanitarian law and pay no heed to the rights and dignity of Afghan people.
The fragility of peace talks will be compounded in the wake of the Taliban intensified and indiscriminate attacks against the Afghan government and nation. The international community as well as the US and its international allies should not turn a blind eye to the Taliban’s acts of violence and terror against ordinary people. They have to pressure the Taliban to honor their deal with US and stop murdering non-combatants, mainly women and children. If the Taliban continue violation of the deal, the US has to reconsider it. In the meantime, the White House should reconsider the troop pullout since a hasty withdrawal will lead to instability. Washington should note that it also signed a security pact with the Afghan government. So, leaving Afghanistan in the lurch would be against this pact.
Targeting civilians has no justification and all warring parties have to respect the fundamental rights – rights to life, liberty and property – of Afghan people. The Taliban should stop their indiscriminate attacks and hold talks with genuine intention.