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

The Fragility and Ambiguity of Talks Are Concerning

Conflicting views about peace talks are likely to undermine the process. Afghan officials and political figures have to adopt a unanimous approach to the talks. There still seems ambiguity and the republic negotiating team is not aware of their authority or roadmap of the negotiations. The negotiating sides are consulting with their leadership and will hold talks in few days. They have to come to the table with full authority in the upcoming meeting.
Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said that the Taliban developed false confidence and the road to peace did not cross only from Doha, however, the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) reiterates talks regardless of the venue. The conciliatory remarks of the HCNR and Saleh’s rhetoric seem to be conflicting. Afghan officials and political figures have to reach a national consensus on the peace process.
The next round of talks will be detailed and controversial. The Taliban may outline the structure of the future system and issues like human rights and women’s rights and liberties as well as ceasefire will be discussed.
However, the people of Afghanistan still seem concerned about the future system the Taliban insist on. So far, the Taliban could not define their system but the republic negotiating team said the Taliban did not moderate their mindset about women’s rights and liberties, music, arts, etc. This could trigger public concern and indicates that the Taliban still practice upon radical ideology, irreconcilable with democratic principles. With this in mind, Afghan Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs, Mohammad Qasim Halimi, said that Afghans would not allow anyone to define the Islamic system individually and impose it on them. He said that Afghan Ulema would define Islam based on the agreement of religious clerics and reputable sources. Halimi also stressed that the demands of Afghan people had to be taken into consideration and the future system had to be made based on their consent and demands.
The escalated insurgency and targeted killings are one of the challenges for the talks and are likely to further complicate the process. Saleh also asserted that the process would be more complicated if “the Taliban continue to kill elders, journalists, and civil society activists.” Ceasefire will be a top priority for the republic team in the next round of talks. The Taliban have to declare ceasefire and stop killing civil and media activists as a gesture of goodwill for peace.
Generally speaking, there are still ifs and buts and ambiguity in the talks. Challenges are formidable and the process is fragile. If the negotiating sides do not consider the demands and preconditions of the people, the talks could be derailed.
It is self-explanatory that Afghans urge for ceasefire, protection of their rights and liberties as well as constitutional principles and democratic values. Afghans suffered severely and paid heavy sacrifices within the last two decades or so to uphold their rights and freedoms and support democratic system. They want the negotiating sides not to compromise their achievements in this regard and respect their gains and sacrifices.
Coming to the table in the next round of talks, the Taliban negotiators should have the authority to declare ceasefire and have to respond positively to this demand, which is supported by all segment of the country and ordinary people. The targeted killings must stop to pave the ground for reaching an agreement. The Taliban need to define the future system clearly and with consideration to public demands and legal values. They should not complicate the process further through haggling over unnecessary issues and continuing their insurgency.
Overall, the negotiating sides have to come to the table with clear stance, genuine intention, and full authority. Playing game at the table is likely to harm the process, which is fragile. The Taliban should not insist on their preconditions without considering the social and political realities and public demands. The Taliban should be ready to accept reduction in violence and declaration of ceasefire in the upcoming round of talks. Meanwhile, the republic team should reach national consensus and adopt a unanimous stance and protect the red-line of Afghan people, who seek peace but not at the cost of their rights and freedoms or democratic gains. The two sides have to note that Afghans support a democratic and republic system in which both men and women be able to exercise their rights and liberties freely. Imposing a system or ideology on the public will backfire and would not lead to sustainable peace. Talks will be fruitful if the public demands are considered and there will be no win-lose mindset.