Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Impatient, Make-It-Or-Break-It Approach To Peace Process Will Break It

There are many thorny issues in the Afghan peace process and obstacles to reaching an agreement. The post-deal political structure will be a highly contentious issue and has to be resolved between Afghan parties. The historical ebbs and flows of Afghanistan indicate the country’s complicated challenges.
The US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad shared with Kabul the new strategy of the Biden administration, seeking national elections under the transitional Afghan government. Khalilzad also had a trip to Qatar and Pakistan, where he exchanged views about the Afghan peace process. He met with both the Afghan and Taliban negotiating delegations in Doha, Qatar’s capital.Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinkin wrote a letter to President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, outlining a four-point plan for the country’s endgame. The plan includes a UN sponsored meeting of foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China, India, and the United States to adopt a “unified approach” on Afghanistan.
The Kabul administration was given specific proposals envisaging a new inclusive government leading to comprehensive ceasefire.Khalilzad met with the Pakistani high-level officials and discussed the Biden’s peace strategy with Pakistan. However, Afghan officials still view Pakistan with doubt and mistrust. Afghan first vice president Amrullah Saleh tweeted, “Pakistan is a direct party to the Afghan conflict and crisis. Treating them as normal neighbor won’t help the peace process. Defining their role in war and peace must be part of the discussion. Silence, sugar coating, appeasement or simply ignoring it won’t help. Taliban leaders are in Pakistan.”
In a separate remark, Saleh has said that the government will not sign the US peace plan.The Afghan government is “reviewing any possible way to get to a dignified peace for our people,” a member of the republic team Nader Nadery is cited as saying. “The republic is built on sacrifices of a large number of our people and our international partners. A dignified peace must protect these.”Afghan government officials in general and President Ghani in particular are unwilling to accept an interim government. Therefore, Saleh’s remarks are not conciliatory. Pakistan will not deny that the Taliban leaders are on Pakistani soil, however, restarting the blame game will not help. Saleh has to be further mindful of his statements so that the peace process is not challenged further.Pakistan has strong leverage on the Taliban leadership and is table to play a very crucial role in the talks. It is up to Khalilzad to persuade Islamabad to use its leverage on the Taliban and pressure them for reaching an agreement.
In addition to escalated insurgency, which indicates Taliban’s lukewarm response to peace talks, there are many ifs and buts to be discussed at the negotiation table over the post-peace political structure. EU special envoy for Afghanistan Roland Kobia has rightly pointed out that “Afghanistan has a Constitution, had elections, held Loya Jirgas, has joint Declaration with the US, is engaged in Doha process. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has the support of vast majority of international community plus the world in United Nations’ Security Council and Geneva has committed to protect achievements and republic.” Apparently refereeing to the Taliban, he said that “You have an opportunity with new US administration to show you really want peace.”To protect the achievements made within the last couple of decades as well as democratic principles and the republic, the Afghan government has to persuade the Taliban to respect them based on public demands. Meanwhile, the world and the United Nations should also put their weight behind the protection of the aforementioned issues. To this end, the negotiating sides have to haggle over these issues at the negotiating table in Qatar before international conferences are held. In short, the most controversial issues will not be resolved in conferences but at the peace table. Hence, the negotiators have to finalize the issues and gear up for participation into international conference, where an agreement is signed and guaranteed under the watch of the international community and regional and global states.President Ghani has softened his tone to some extent as he said that Afghanistan “is ready to talk on a free, transparent and countrywide election under the management of the international community.” He urged the Taliban to prove their goodwill for peace and stability in the country. So far, the Taliban negotiators could not build a trust between each other.
As both the Afghan government and the Taliban do not trust each other, how they will be able to reach an agreement. I want to emphasize that the issue of Afghanistan is far more complicated to be resolved in few months. Khalilzad has to create regional and international consensus and build trust between the two sides through pressuring the Taliban to reduce violence and honor their deal with the White House. It will prove productive if Washington goes with the peace process patiently and the make-it-or-break-it approach to the process is most likely to break it.