Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

Lukewarm Responses, Blame Game Challenge Peace Process

There are concerns about the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Regional actors fear the spillover, saying that a security vacuum will emerge. The Kabul administration and the Taliban leadership have prepared to resume the stalled peace talks in Qatari capital of Doha. Regional stakeholders reiterated their support to intra-Afghan dialogue on multiple occasions, but there is still no tangible result.
The peace talks do not move forward for three main reasons: First, the Taliban are not sincere in the talks. Perhaps for the intra-group discord, the Taliban have not agreed to declare ceasefire or reduce violence. That is, the Taliban rank and file and their military commanders capitalize on escalated militancy as they collect money from ordinary people, salespersons, truck drivers, etc. If the Taliban leaders declare ceasefire, their military commanders are unlikely to be able to continue abusing power and extorting money.
Second, regional and global stakeholders are not willing to put their weight behind the peace talks with strong determination and seriousness. The Afghan government has constantly called on regional and global actors to play their role actively and constructively in the talks. Afghan high-level officials made several trips to neighboring countries and regional and global states to gain their support for the talks; however, there does not seem strong support from the region or globe.
Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, also pledged support to the negotiations, saying to US and Afghan high-level officials that they would use their leverage on the Taliban leadership and pressure it to reach an agreement. But they did not fulfill their promise. As a result, Afghan officials doubt the sincerity of Islamabad. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a virtual speech to the European parliament said that there were people within Afghanistan who seek to disrupt the peace process in the country. In reaction to his remarks, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the spoilers of peace are those who have rejected the Afghan people and the international community’s call by continuing violence.  
It is believed that if Islamabad plays an active and constructive role and uses its leverage on the Taliban leadership, the peace talks will bear the desired fruit. In other words, the entire globe believes that Pakistan has a strong leverage on the Taliban leadership and could broker the stalemate in the talks. Notwithstanding their repeated promise to back the intra-Afghan dialogue, no breakthrough has been made in the talks. Afghan officials expect Pakistan to take practical steps in the talks and pressure the Taliban leadership to sit at the table with sincere intention.
Third, the Biden administration is seeking withdrawal without showing enough concerns about Afghanistan’s security situation. That is to say, despite the escalated insurgency, the troop withdrawal has been started. Meanwhile, the Taliban spokesperson called the Trump-Taliban peace pact as “withdrawal agreement”. Washington does not respond to the public concerns about the security vacuum, likely to be created in the post-US Afghanistan.
All the obstacles to the talks are unwillingness. The unwillingness of the Taliban to reduce violence or engage in the talks with genuine intention, the unwillingness of Pakistan to put its weight behind the peace process but simply vows its support through statements, and the unwillingness of the US to seek a responsible withdrawal. If regional and global stakeholders supported the peace process, a breakthrough would be made in the talks.
The blame game between Kabul and Islamabad is likely to challenge the reconciliation process. The two sides have to support the talks and pressure the Taliban to stop their acts of violence and bloodshed so as to pave the ground for an agreement. To build trust, Pakistan needs to prove its crucial role in the talks in practical way. Islamabad could impose sanction on the Taliban leadership, ban the trip of their leaders, and close all their councils on its soil. In such a case, the Taliban will abide by Pakistan’s order. But engaging in blame game will deteriorate the situation and push the talks to deadlock. In short, blame game will do more harm than good. The two sides have to stop this game and fulfill their promise as they made to focus on the talks.
Regional and global stakeholders have to support the talks with all their strength. They, including the US and its international allies, have to pressure the Taliban leadership to practice genuine intention in the talks. Meanwhile, the Taliban should stop talks-talks and fight-fight approach and make their stance clear whether to continue with peace or war.