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

The Contour of Peace Talks

The active role of the United Nations and regional stakeholders, including Russia and Pakistan, in the Afghan peace process will carry increasing significance. Formation of regional and international consensus is highly crucial. A chain of events in the last two weeks or so tend to trigger multilateral efforts and broker the stalled intra Afghan dialogue appear to add momentum to the peace process.
If a new version of peace plan mentioned in a letter written to President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the recent visit of US Defense Secretary Lyold Austin to Kabul reflect impatience on the part of the Biden administration to wrap up the US longest war, the Taliban and the Afghan government are in an opposite direction as far as giving a new shape to the Doha agreement is concerned. The Afghan officials still are unwilling to talk about an interim government.
The United States has widened the circle of the peace process with taking on board the United Nations, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and India as a multi-stakeholder approach for peace in the country.
The US supported Moscow conference on Afghanistan and urged Turkey to take a similar move by inviting regional stakeholders for an effective brainstorming session to help prevent the surge of violence.
Washington subscribes to concerns and alarms raised by the Department of Defense and some circles in the Congress that the US military pullout from Afghanistan by following the deadline mentioned in Doha agreement will create a dangerous vacuum which can be filled in by the Taliban and other terrorist networks.
The people of Afghanistan have two main concerns: First, the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, despite the stalled peace talks and escalated violence, will deteriorate the security situation since the Taliban are widely engaged in violence and bloodshed. Second, if the peace talks do not bear the desired result and the negotiating sides do not reach peace accord, the level of violence will increase.
The Taliban have rejected the proposal of President Ghani to hold early presidential elections, because it will be understandable for the Taliban that a group which was involved in spilling the blood of the people, including women and children, will not win through elections and will have no social reputation.
Although the Biden administration is seeking to accelerate the peace process, Afghans are still not hopeful and optimistic about the outcome.
Afghans are still not confident if regional stakeholders, including Pakistan, will put its weight behind the peace process sincerely and pressure the Taliban leadership to exercise goodwill in the talks and stop killing the people. On the other hand, it is believed that the Moscow conference, the ‘Heart of Asia Conference’ in Dushanbe under the ‘Istanbul Process’ on Afghanistan and subsequent events related to inter and intra-Afghan dialogue may not yield positive results unless a multi-stakeholder approach is applied sincerely by the concerned parties. To put it succinctly, unless the Taliban reduce violence, efforts made outside and inside the country for peace process are unlikely to yield positive results.
If the Taliban reduce violence, the ground for agreement will be paved and a sense of hope and trust will be created in public air. Hence, the regional and global stakeholders have to pressure the Taliban to reduce violence. Earlier, the Taliban political spokesperson Mohammad Naeem Wardak said that the Taliban discussed a 90-day reduction in violence with the United States, which yet to be agreed on.
It indicates that the Taliban will agree to reduce violence, which will be a good move if they do not seek greater concessions in return.
Afghans have persistently called on the Taliban group to declare ceasefire, which is also still on the top agenda of the republic negotiating team.
Regional and global stakeholders have to pressure the Taliban to reduce violence and start the Doha talks soon. Meanwhile, the international community should give assurance that the Taliban will adhere to the agreement, once it is signed between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
In short, the Taliban group, which still continue their militancy on a large scale, have to declare ceasefire and honor their commitment with the United States and show flexibility at the negotiating table with the Afghan government. In such a case, hope and trust will emerge and the talks may bear the desired result. That is, the Taliban have to build trust and prove their goodwill, if they have, through reduction in violence.