Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Genuine Intention – Highly Crucial to Fruitful Talks

The Taliban have maintained their ties with al-Qaeda network, engaged widely in killing civilians and refused to reduce violence, despite sitting across from the government’s negotiating team. Afghans’ constant calls for peace fell on deaf ears. Public hope for reaching a negotiated settlement is decreasing as the Taliban haggled over their demands and preconditions at the negotiating table and did not honor their agreement with the United States as vowed to dismantle their ties with al-Qaeda.
Afghan officials have said the Taliban group still maintains its ties with al-Qaeda network. “The Taliban’s cooperation and their reluctance to cut ties with al-Qaeda and dozens of other terrorist groups indicate that the group does not have any commitment for the peace process,” presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi is cited as saying. A UN official also confirmed that al-Qaeda was still “heavily embedded” within the Taliban in the country. It came as the Taliban pledged to cut ties with all terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, in their agreement with Washington signed in February in the Qatari capital of Doha.
Meanwhile, the Taliban are widely engaged in carrying out indiscriminate attacks against the people of Afghanistan. The Ministry of Interior Affairs said the Taliban fighters had killed 261 civilians and wounded 602 more in the country within less than two months.
To one’s unmitigated surprise, US Special Representative for Afghanistan’s Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who constantly remained hopeful and optimistic about the outcome of the talks, tweeted that he “returned to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened” adding that “the window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever.”
Since, on the one hand, the Taliban have already reneged on their counterterrorism pledges to the US by continuing to operate closely with al-Qaeda, and on the other hand, killed and wounded Afghan civilians, both US and Afghan officials seem to have lost their trust in them. Afghan ordinary people have always viewed the Taliban with doubt and mistrust.
Amid the stagnation of the intra-Afghan dialogue, the Afghan negotiating sides are said to have agreed to allow Qatar to mediate the talks so that the two sides reach a political settlement. The active and constructive engagement of regional and global stakeholders in the Afghan peace process will move the process forward. Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and international allies have to press the Taliban to honor their deal with Washington through cutting their ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks and reducing violence.
I have constantly doubted the Taliban’s goodwill in the talks as they never proved their genuine intention. The Taliban fighters continue their deadly and destructive role regardless of the dialogue. Killing civilians will be proved counterproductive as the peace process will be pushed to deadlock and Afghan ordinary people filled with rage and hatred.
There is still possibility for fruitful talks. That is, the talks will bear the desired result if the negotiating sides sit with genuine intention across from each other and discuss the issues honestly.
It is self-explanatory that escalated militancy amidst talks will fill the air with mistrust. The Taliban group, which persists on its preconditions, have to honor their deal, too. It is believed that if the group declares ceasefire, the room for reconciliation will be extended and Afghans may also change perspective regarding the group. In short, coming to the table is significant and a step forward to peace, but it will only bear the desired fruit if the two sides are genuine.
It should be noted that the Taliban also make aggressive remarks based on their radical ideology. For instance, Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief Taliban spokesman, said last week in an interview, “All troops and workers serving the Kabul administration have waged war against Muslims for the past 20 years. They are a bunch of criminals and mercenaries.”
In response to this remark, however, Waheed Omer, Director General for Office of Public and Strategic Affairs, tweeted that “it basically means ‘kill all Afghans and establish an Islamic Emirate on their graveyards’”.
Such remarks by the Taliban will outrage the public conscience across the country. The Taliban killed Afghan soldiers and civilians without an iota of guilt, despite the fact that Afghan clerics issued fatwa (religious decree) against the Taliban acts of violence and bloodshed and condemned the Taliban’s attacks on multiple occasions. The Taliban have to apologize for killing at least ordinary people if not mention the soldiers, who are also Muslims. The Taliban are currently at war with an Islamic country, which are supported by all Afghans except for militant groups.