Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 19th, 2021

The Rocky Road of Peace Talks

Despite holding talks with the Taliban and giving concessions to the group, the Afghan government failed to secure a permanent ceasefire. There are concerns about the outcome of the talks since the Taliban have maintained their ties with al-Qaeda and violated their agreement with the United States , signed in February.
The Taliban are said to be behind many civilian casualties as they have continued their ties with the international terrorist groups. Officials said that the Taliban sought concessions at the negotiating table and are unwilling to declare ceasefire or reduce their violence. In the wake of the Taliban’s intensified attacks, Afghan officials called on Washington to review their agreement with the Taliban outfit.
Earlier, Michael Semple, a former European Union and UN advisor on Afghanistan, said the Taliban “have intensified their relationship with al Qaeda and the other international jihadist factions in the wake of the signing” of the February agreement. “Although obviously the majority of fighters in the Taliban ranks are Afghans, there’s a significant role for the foreign militants. That has intensified—it’s systematic. They are contributing to the ongoing military campaign. There’s no sign that that’s changing.”
“The reality on the ground is that if the US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan without a serious program of ongoing support for the Afghan government, then the Taliban, who roll back into power in Kabul restoring the Islamic Emirate, will be triumphantly allied with al Qaeda,” Semple said. “The empirical evidence tells us that Taliban intelligence have strengthened their relationship with the foreign militants and rely on them for servicing the war effort.”
Political analysts believe that with the Biden win, Afghanistan is unlikely to be a priority for a new US administration. Biden may seek to repair relations with Europe and NATO, the trade war with China will be his biggest problem, Iran, North Korea. Beyond that, as vice president to President Barack Obama, Biden was among those who pushed for a rapid US drawdown.
The Taliban are widely engaged in killing Afghan soldiers and civilians refusing to reduce violence although US President Donald Trump’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad guaranteed the Afghan government of mitigated violence after the prisoner release.
Afghan officials and ordinary people disapprove with the role of Khalilzad, who mediated the release of Taliban fighters, but could not secure reduction in violence or declaration of ceasefire. In other words, Khalilzad simply gave concessions to the Taliban with earning nothing in return for Afghanistan. The Taliban violate their peace deal with the United States, but the Trump administration turns a blind eye to the fact and shows no reaction. Worst, Khalilzad, who constantly showed optimism about the outcome of the intra-Afghan dialogue and reduction of violence from the Taliban side, aired his concerns and disappointment in his last statements regarding the talks.
The intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha, the capital of Qatar, is “fragile” and likely to reach stalemate with the Taliban’s intensified attacks and refusal to reduce violence.
It is self-explanatory that the peace process is a rocky road. US-elect President Biden has to review Trump’s decision, who sought a hasty withdrawal even if peace and stability were not secured in the country. Biden also needs to pressure the Taliban’s supporters to stop backing the Taliban and harboring their members.
The peace deal with Washington emboldened the Taliban group, which is seeking to play a foul game at the negotiating table since it is unwilling to discontinue its ties with al-Qaeda, despite making pledges, or stop killing Afghan civilians.
With debates about the start of peace talks, Afghans hoped optimistically that peace and stability would emerge and the Taliban would reduce violence. However, the Trump administration sidelined the Afghan government from the talks, the first step triggered public disappointment. The chagrin was compounded when the US and Taliban negotiating teams held talks behind closed doors. With the Taliban’s intensified attacks despite the start of intra-Afghan talks, the public air is filled with unmitigated chagrin and frustration. Afghans doubt the commitment of the Taliban group, which has shown no genuine intention.
Overall, the talks are a highly bumpy road and the Taliban’s escalated militancy has compounded the challenges and triggered the public disappointment in the talks. The peace process is fragile and if the Taliban continue their violence, the negotiations are likely to reach deadlock. With this in mind, the US future administration has to approach more realistically to the peace process and review its plan if need be. Meanwhile, regional and international stakeholders use their leverage on the Taliban to honor their deal with the US through cutting ties with the international terrorist groups and declaration of ceasefire.