aliban’s refusal to reduce violence and the escalated militancy, which inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan civilians, have been serious concerns for the public. All segments of the society and global stakeholders urge reduction in violence, which was one of the conditions in the agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban in late February in Qatar.
Recently, as the government and the Taliban negotiators are taking a break, all calls are for reduction in violence, leading to a nationwide ceasefire. But “the Taliban use violence as leverage,” said the top US Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, who held an unannounced meeting with the Taliban negotiating team in Doha, Qatar. Calling for reduction in violence, Milley said, “Military commanders on the ground are now starting to do things that are not conducive to peace talks and reconstruction and stability.”
Meanwhile, Deborah Lyons, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan said to the Security Council that she expects “violence will be a top priority when the peace talks resume in early January”. She also called on all countries to put pressure on warring sides that reduction in violence be their top priority at the negotiating table.
With the start of the talks between the Donald Trump administration and the Taliban, the people of Afghanistan for peace on multiple occasions and urged the Taliban not to shed their blood. However, the Taliban have so far held out against the public call and continue spilling the blood of soldiers and civilians despite the agreement signed with Washington and sitting around the table with the government’s interlocutors.
In the upcoming round of talks, if the Taliban do not agree over reduction in violence, talks are likely to reach deadlock and Afghans will lose their trust and hope in the peace process.
It is important to note that killing civilians as a bargaining chip will be counterproductive. It is self-explanatory that the Taliban are viewed as a national pariah since they are largely involved in killing non-combatants, including women and children. The Taliban minimize their acts of killings and magnify civilian casualties caused by Afghan or coalition forces, which happen as a result of the Taliban’s activities.
The Taliban’s practices are contrary to peace talks. In other words, the Taliban’s military commanders and rank and file are engaged in escalated insurgency, which shows their lukewarm response to peace. Talks-and-talks and fights-and-fights strategy are unlikely to move the peace process forward. It also indicates that the Taliban are not genuine in the talks. With this in mind, the Taliban either have to hold talks with goodwill or stop talking and continue their fights so that the government side and Afghan ordinary people be clear. In short, holding talks on the one hand and intensifying attacks on the other hand create confusion for Afghan state and nation.
Reduction in violence and nationwide ceasefire will be the top priority for the government’s negotiating team in the upcoming round of talks, as head of High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah also maintained.
If the Taliban oppose public demand for reduction in violence, there will be two possibilities. First, the talks will reach stalemate and the government’s negotiating team will leave the Taliban with two options: either stoppage of talks or acceptance of demand. Second, the US and its international allies will press the Taliban to agree on reduction in violence. If talks reach stalemate, Afghan state and nation expect regional and global stakeholders to broke it and persuade the Taliban to reduce violence. In short, some regional actors, including Pakistan that hosted the Taliban high-level negotiators few days back, have constantly said that they would support the intra-Afghan dialogue. If so, they have to persuade the Taliban to stop killing people so as to prove their goodwill, if they really have, at the table. Supporting the process means that not letting the cycle of talks stop unless it leads to sustainable peace and stability in the country.
Talks are not for talks but achieving peace. The dialogue has to put tangible effect on the society through bringing in peace. I believe that the peace process is a highly rocky road, but reduction in violence and declaration of permanent ceasefire will not be that complicated. In short, the Taliban should not kill people as a bargaining chip at the table. Regional and global states, mainly the US, have to pressure the Taliban to show goodwill for peace through stopping escalated bloodshed. Or else military firepower should be the next option.