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

Challenges Slowing Down Peace Process

As a result of the US-Taliban peace agreement, the gains made within the last couple of decades, human rights, and democratic discourse were put at stake and Washington downsized its troop number despite the ongoing conflict, which was a heavy price to pay. Donald Trump’s negotiations with the Taliban and troop pullout were a hasty initiative.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad could not play an important role since he failed to bring in peace and stability. He also widened the gap between official and political heavyweights, mainly in the wake of his recent meeting with Afghan political leaders in Dubai.
There are serious flaws in the US-Taliban peace agreement. First, the agreement is ambiguous to many. It unfolds as the peace process moves forward. Second, the Afghan government was marginalized from the talks, despite Kabul’s persistence to be included, and the Ghani administration is not a signatory to the peace accord. Third, the US international allies were also sidelined from the negotiations. All three issues are now challenging the intra-Afghan dialogue. It is believed that if the talks were inclusive, with the engagement of the Kabul government and US international allies, the process would not have been too complicated and a trilateral meeting, if signed, were productive.
Taliban political Spokesperson Naeem Wardak said that the US-Taliban agreement was not a peace pact but a “withdrawal accord”. 
Afghans hope that US President Joe Biden will revise the US-Taliban Doha agreement. The Biden administration is likely to gain the support of regional states in general and Pakistan in particular to move the process forward. But the troop pullout needs to be condition-based. If Biden moves with the hasty withdrawal plan, the consequences will be horrible.
The recent remarks of the Taliban and Afghan officials are not reconciliatory, which will harm the process. For instance, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid recently said that a ceasefire between the group and the government would be announced once the Taliban achieved their goals and aspirations. He warned that if the peace talks ended inconclusively, the Taliban would take the “final military action.” On the other hand, Afghan security officials said that if the Taliban did not agree over peace, they would bring peace through military deal.
Meanwhile, Mujahid said that a complete withdrawal of the US forces and formation of a real Islamic government were the precondition for a ceasefire. But ceasefire is the top priority for the republic team, a move that will pave the ground for peace accord.
Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann believes that the Taliban are not in the pursuit of peace but monopolization of power. Based on his perception of the peace parley, the Taliban are not prepared for reconciliation but seek power.
Formation of interim government is a bone of contention between the Taliban and the Afghan government. It is believed that the Taliban and a number of political leaders support establishment of interim government, Nonetheless, President Ghani said that he would hand the power through elections. The disagreements are likely to be further serious with the ongoing escalated insurgency, bargaining for higher price, and harsh rhetoric between the two sides.
A Taliban spokesman has publicly stated that anything less than a full US withdrawal is a deal-breaker. And with the level of violence in the country continuing to rise, the Kabul government may soon find it politically too costly to remain in the talks. “Regardless of the reason, should negotiations break down, the reactions among a disillusioned Afghan public, a disunited political elite, and sorely disappointed international community could well determine the future of the Ashraf Ghani government and of Afghanistan’s Islamic Republic.”
The Afghan government and the Taliban have to tone down their remarks and adopt a conciliatory attitude towards each other. Meanwhile, the Taliban have to agree with ceasefire and bring down their expectations.
The Biden administration has to pressure the Taliban to declare ceasefire as well as the states, which have leverage on the Taliban leadership, to persuade the group to show flexibility.
Khalilzad signed agreement with the Taliban, without the presence of the Kabul government. With the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue, he should stop interfering in the process, which is beyond his authority. Pushing for interim government is siding with the Taliban, which is unacceptable to Afghan state and nation.
Overall, the peace process is tough and rocky. If the negotiating sides do not show flexibility, individuals and politicians create hurdles, and the Biden administration does not put pressure on the Taliban group and its backers, talks will be deadlocked.