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

The Dim Contour of Peace Talks in 2021

Afghanistan has left a bloody year behind. Scores of Afghan soldiers and civilians were killed in the wake of the Taliban escalated insurgency. A number of Islamic clerics, including Afghan Ulema Council, issued fatwa against the conflict in Afghanistan from across the region and Afghan people and their representatives in Loya Jirga (Grand National Assembly) called on the Taliban to reduce violence, but the Taliban turned a deaf ear to all and continued their insurgency, killing combatants and non-combatants alike.  
Peace talks yet to bear the desired result. In 2020, the peace talks led only to the US-Taliban peace agreement and persuasion of the Taliban to come to the table with the Afghan government, it was done with many concessions, though. Despite the talks and Afghans’ hope for peace and stability, the Taliban have so far held out against declaration of ceasefire and reduction in violence. In short, the Taliban did not prove their goodwill and turned down the public call for peace.
The second round of talks is slated for January 5, Afghans still hope and pray for the fruition of the talks and call on the Taliban not to spill their blood as the US soldiers are preparing to leave. Afghans have been fluctuating between hope and fear with the start of the talks between the Taliban and their republic interlocutors. Generally speaking, despite little hope and optimism aired, Afghans are highly concerned and disappointed with the talks since the Taliban persist on their own demands disregarding the public calls and preconditions. Afghans hoped that the US-Taliban peace pact could lead to peace and stability in the country, but to their unmitigated chagrin, the security situation deteriorated and streams of blood were spilled in 2020. Afghan non-combatants bore the brunt of violence with the Taliban’s indiscriminate killings. Recently, the Taliban adopted hit-and-denial strategy to gain the upper hand at the peace table.
Afghans are highly frustrated with the ongoing conflict. But the Taliban seek power at any cost masking their intention in religious terminology. To further capitalize on religious feelings of the public, the Taliban persist on establishing “Islamic Emirate” fearing the masses would refuse their ideology and radical mindset with the establishment of republic system with democratic principles. However, the Taliban seem to be unaware of the fact that Afghans’ mindset and views have changed regarding the government within the last couple of decades.
It is important to note that all members of human family live in a global village and Afghanistan is also linked to the rest of the world through modern technology and means of communication. Therefore, it is prone to changes. Social, political and cultural exchanges with the region and the world will necessarily have their impact on the society and collective life. With this in mind, the Taliban are neither able to cut Afghanistan from outside world nor impose their mindset on them at gunpoint. Modernization is an unavoidable product of the modern world and even closed societies, including Saudi Arabia, are driven to modern changes and accepting liberal culture in some cases. TVs, Internet, and other means of communication will sell cultural commodity. The Taliban leaders also use modern products as their reporters broadcast live the first preliminary meeting held between the Taliban negotiating team and their republic interlocutors. But their militants might have been kept within the four walls of training camps or engaged in militancy without having access to modern technology. Their frame of mind is likely to be similar to that during the Taliban regime (1996-2001). Therefore, it is likely to be hard for those militant ideologues to accept an Afghanistan with democratic principles and modern constitution approved on the basis of international law and recognized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter. If those militants enter the society to have a normal life, they have to be localized and their mindset moderated so as to be prepared for reintegration into the society. To put it succinctly, the disagreement between the Taliban leadership and their fighters stem from their frame of mind. Their leaders have lived in relatively liberal and modern societies and modern cultural commodity and values are desensitized for them. But their military commanders and rank and file are still not able to reconcile their mindset with modern values and liberal culture.
Considering the social and cultural realities of Afghanistan, the Taliban have to moderate their mindset to the extent that they be able to reconcile their worldview with modern values and their leadership should persuade their military commanders and rank and file to reduce violence and declare ceasefire so that the talks come to fruition, leading to sustainable peace and stability.