Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 15th, 2021

Prospects in Latest Round of Peace Talks

In the second round of the intra-Afghan dialogue, ceasefire and the future system will be the main issues to be discussed between the negotiating sides. A sense of concern continues about the talks since there appear to be diverse views within the members of the Afghanistan negotiating team as well as Taliban’s radically unflinching mindset about democratic principles.
Political figures believe that the Taliban are an undeniable reality and have to have participation in the future government. Taliban’s reintegration into the system is widely accepted but the problem is that the Taliban’s ideology is less likely to have been moderated regarding democratic and constitutional principles and women’s rights and liberties.
A member of the Afghanistan negotiating team Abdul Hafiz Mansoor has revealed that the Taliban still practice upon fundamental ideology and their mindset regarding women, music, arts, and democracy has not changed. He added that the Taliban viewed female members of the team as “décor” and listening to their voice “haram” (forbidden).  Mansoor asserted that this round of talks, starting today in Doha, would not be about religious issues or exchanges of political programs but “division of power”. According to him, the Taliban are inclined to rule Afghanistan but have no clear agenda for ruling. The Taliban still cherish military morale and believe they could gain power through violence, which could be very perilous, Mansoor maintained.  He concluded that there was not consensus between the Presidential Palace and High Council for National Reconciliation.
Considering Mansoor’s statements, division of power will be discussed in the latest round of talks and the Taliban, holding radical ideology towards democratic principles, are inclined to talk about the future system.
Political pundits emphasize a pragmatically flexible handling of positions in turning preconditions into objectives to be realized. If the Taliban bring down their expectations in a pragmatic way and make positive response to the development made in the first round of the negotiations, and reduce its insurgent offensives and try to reach a ceasefire agreement with their interlocutors, the talks could thereby make a substantial step forward. Reduction in violence, leading to national ceasefire – demanded by all segments of the Afghan society – could be the first step forward in the latest round of talks.
Nonetheless, “the most difficult challenge could be ‘to abide by Afghan Constitution’ and ‘the return of Shariat,’ a pair of conflicting demands determining the future framework of Afghan politics and being directly interlinked with political position and prospects of each side.” The people of Afghanistan and their representatives will not backtrack on the post-Taliban democratic and “modernization-oriented” constitution, which is of vital importance for gender equality and protection of women’s rights and freedoms as well as democratic gains, achieved in the last couple of decades.
It would be advisable for the negotiating sides to make sincere answers to the demands of the people and sign an agreement in the Afghan constitutional framework acceptable to the public. And the political framework needs to be balanced and inclusive, in which all segments of the society could have social and political participation.
In his commentary about Afghanistan’s peace process, Dr. Zeng Xiangyu, a professor in Institute of South Asian Studies in Sichuan University, said, “It is unrealistic to rule out the political influence of any of Kabul and Taliban. A workable compromise could be reached with a mixture of traditional and modernization forces exercising joint command of political power on the one hand, and checking each other on the other hand.” Zeng approaches the Taliban optimistically not realizing that the Taliban still have many fundamental elements and hold radical views instead of being traditionalists. The Afghan state and nation have no problem with the Taliban’s reintegration into the system but concerned about their fundamental ideology vis-à-vis women’s rights and freedoms as well as democratic discourse. To put it succinctly, Afghans fear the consequences of making room for entrance of fundamental elements into the political structure. The Taliban have to moderate and reconcile their worldview with the country’s social, cultural, and political realities. They should also agree with disbandment and demilitarization once the two sides reach a peace agreement.
Bargaining for higher prices and seeking concessions through violence and targeted killings will be counterproductive and likely to derail the talks. With this in mind, the Taliban have to declare ceasefire and stop killing Afghan soldiers and civilians.
The people of Afghanistan expect the negotiating sides to reach an agreement to create a peaceful air in the society. Therefore, they have called on the Taliban, on multiple occasions, to reduce violence against them.