Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Taliban’s Escalated Insurgency Shows Khalilzad’s Failure

It is widely agreed that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad could not play his role positively in the peace talks, which have been stalled. He fell for the bogus claim of the Taliban, who said they would reduce violence and declare ceasefire. Khalilzad signed a “withdrawal agreement” rather than a peace pact. He gave many concessions to the Taliban and legitimized the group but failed to persuade them to reduce violence or stop spilling the blood of Afghan soldiers and civilians. 
Notwithstanding the Taliban’s involvement in killing scores of people, Khalilzad gave the group legitimacy and facilitated the release of more than 5,000 of their fighters. However, the Taliban group gave nothing in return for all the concessions.
Khalilzad’s role in the peace process has diminished. Despite his trips to the region, he is not able to broker the peace stalemate. Maintaining his position as special envoy carries no significance. The people of Afghanistan no more view him as an essential actor or his role important.
Former US President Donald Trump put all his trust in Khalilzad to the extent that he could resolve the conflict and would be nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. However, he undid the two decades of US blood and treasure through signing an agreement with the Taliban leadership without involving the Afghan administration in the process. In short, the Trump-Taliban peace agreement was a bitter pill for Khalilzad to swallow since the security situation has deteriorated in Afghanistan and the Taliban have intensified their attacks with the start of the US troop pullout.
As of now, the US and its NATO allies are seeking a complete withdrawal, the two decades of achievements regarding democratic values and human rights and freedoms, mainly those of women, as well as constitutional principles are left at stake. The Taliban practice upon their radical ideology and seek amendment to the Constitution aimed at restricting the rights and freedoms of women and curtailing their social and political role. Worst, the Taliban stalled the peace talks, seeking to win through military deal. They also do not honor their deal with Washington as the group neither cut its ties with al-Qaeda nor reduced violence.
Meanwhile, the regional states, where Khalilzad made many trips, are also not willing to put pressure on the Taliban. Although the Taliban continue their acts of violence and bloodshed, regional states simply play the role of spectators. After all, regional media seek to de-uglify the Taliban and talk in their support. Hence, Khalilzad also failed to persuade regional stakeholders to put their weight behind the peace process and use their leverage on the Taliban. It was the next failure for Khalilzad. So, he is not a successful envoy at all.
With the US agreement for complete withdrawal, the Taliban were not only emboldened but also declared a victory over the United States.
With the withdrawal of NATO troops, the Taliban’s narrative of “jihad” or “war against foreign occupation” is ended. As a result, Muslim clerics have declared the ongoing conflict “haram” (forbidden according to Islamic tenets), saying that there is no justification for war in Afghanistan. In a recent statement, Afghan clerics reiterated that the ongoing war is against Islam and the Taliban have to stop shedding the blood of people. However, the Taliban turn a deaf ear to the statements of the clerics. The Taliban never seek to debate their ideology. They simply respond with the barrel of gun. Hence, one will conclude that the Taliban neither exercise the true tenets of Islam nor fulfill their commitments. The group is seeking to gain power at the cost of both religion and people’s lives.
If Khalilzad is not able to persuade the Taliban to return to the negotiating table as well as regional stakeholders to support the peace process, his position will be symbolic. He needs to be replaced with an active person with a better role.
It is evident that Khalilzad failed to move the country to peace and stability. The US-Taliban agreement was only in the interests of the Taliban. The US has to review its policy towards Afghanistan and the region. The Biden administration has to pressure the Taliban to stop fighting and continue with the negotiations and also regional actors to play their role actively and constructively in the peace process. If there is no pressure, mainly on the Taliban, they are unlikely to reduce violence.