Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Escalated Insurgency Indicates Taliban’s Lukewarm Response to Talks

Amidst the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue in Qatari capital of Doha and Taliban’s bargain over higher price, Afghans are highly concerned and political pundits are not optimistic about the outcome of the talks. The Taliban’s escalated violence show their lukewarm response to the negotiations. The Afghan and Taliban negotiating sides have not finalized their agenda so far to start their agenda-based official meeting. The process moves at a snail’s pace, triggering public apprehension.
The US-Taliban Doha agreement, which excessively conceded the group and gave it legitimacy at national and international level, has emboldened the Taliban to a great extent. The group is largely involved in killing soldiers and civilians and holds out against ceasefire, proposed by the republic team, to gain more concessions at the negotiating table.
Chairman of Nation Party of Afghanistan Jafar Mahdavi said the Taliban had downplayed the seriousness of the talks as “a tactical move” to see if Joe Biden would continue his support to peace process seriously. He also said that there was a disagreement within the government officials as well as between officials and political leaders, adding that the possibility for failure of the talks was really high. Mahdavi said the two sides had to discuss “the immediate nationwide ceasefire” and “post-deal political structure” without debating marginal issues.
Former NDS Chief Rahmatullah Nabil also said that the peace talks would remain in limbo until the policy of the new US administration for Afghanistan was cleared.
It is self-explanatory that if talks fail, deadly conflict and horrible consequences await Afghanistan and civilians will bear the brunt of it.
Generally speaking, two issues fill the public air with fear and disappointment. First, the Taliban militants continue escalated militancy and systematic killings and their leadership is unwilling to declare ceasefire. Second, the tone of Taliban leaders and Afghan officials are not reconciliatory and they relay messages of warning and threat to each other, which is likely to derail the peace talks. The Taliban’s “tactical move” at the table and intensified attacks in the battlefields portend their foul play.
Meanwhile, diverse and contradictory remarks made regarding the process are bewildering. Afghan ordinary people are in limbo, viewing the talks with fear and chagrin. They have constantly called on the Taliban to reduce violence but all in vain. Worst, to unmitigated chagrin of the public, the US-Taliban Doha agreement did not lead to peace or stability in Afghanistan, but Trump turned a blind eye to violation of the agreement by the Taliban –  as they did not cut their ties with al-Qaeda and other international terrorists and not reduced insurgency – and downsized the US soldiers.
It is important for the Taliban to note that killing civilians as a bargaining chip at the table is likely to backfire. The Taliban leaders and spokespersons shed crocodile tears for the nation through making patriotic remarks and magnify civilians killed in Afghan forces’ operations, but justify their own acts of violence and killings and refuse public calls for ceasefire or reduction in violence. Such a double dealing is no more a mystery. Talk-talk and fight-fight strategy will not lead to peace.
To push the talks for fruition, regional and international stakeholders have to engage in the process actively and constructively since failure in the talks will destabilize the entire region. The stakeholders as well as the international community have to put pressure on the Taliban to negotiate with sincere intention and declare a nationwide ceasefire. Since the Taliban’s unconditional and irrational demands challenge the talks, regional actors should pressure them to bring down their expectations. Pakistan, which has a strong leverage on the Taliban leadership and harbors their members, has promised multiple times to put its weight behind the peace talks. Nonetheless, Islamabad still has not persuaded their leadership to declare ceasefire, which will facilitate peace agreement. Chairman of Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami of Afghanistan Mohammad Karim Khalili, in his three-day visit to Pakistan, met with Pakistani Prime Minister, Army Chief, Speaker of Parliament and some political and religious figures to discuss bilateral cooperation in peace process. He also stressed the role of Iran in the process. The international community and regional actors, including Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan need to support the ongoing Doha talks to bear the desired result. Their role will be highly crucial for moving the process forward. Meanwhile, a stable Afghanistan will be in the interests of all regional and neighboring countries.  
The Taliban have to stop playing a foul game at the table and try to reach an agreement with their Afghan interlocutors in Qatar. Fight is not in their interests either.