Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 24th, 2021

Concerns about and Consequences of Peace Stalemate

Despite sustaining heavy casualties, the Taliban have shown themselves to be in no hurry to end the nation’s bloodletting. The deadlock in peace talks has confirmed the wide gap between the opposing sides in their visions of a future Afghan state and society. Negotiations could very well drag on unproductively for many more months, even extend to years, and at any point in time collapse entirely. Despite the agonizingly slow progress, both sides for their separate reasons appear for now hesitant to abandon the negotiations.
Afghan forces have for some time conducted ground operations independently and have slowly grown an air force instrumental in keeping major population centers out of the hands of militants. But even with uninterrupted American financial assistance to the ANSDF, the departure of most or all foreign troops and private contractors, and especially the loss of US tactical air support, will test the Afghan military’s mettle and morale.
Fearing expanding violence and the looming possibility of Taliban rule, a number of people will lay plans to flee the country. A rapidly deteriorating or collapsed economy as in the 1990s could mean that millions of employed Afghans would lose their ability to earn a living. Without a modern economy, the most skilled and educated would be among the first wave of refugees. Foreign aid donors and international aid agencies and NGOs would find it increasingly difficult to maintain their programs and in leaving add to the severity of an economic contraction and people’s hardships.
In an Afghanistan under Taliban sway, respect for popular will as expressed through democratic institutions would have no place. The republic’s elected officials and representative institutions would be replaced by a righteous leader and a council of clerics seeking guidance exclusively from Islamic principles. Tolerance of media and other freedoms of expression would similarly disappear, as is presaged by the recent targeted killings of many journalists and public figures. Predictably, the strict cultural prohibitions enforced during the 1990s would be reinstituted. Women’s educational rights and other impressive achievements marking the last 19 years could be enjoyed only at the sufferance of local mullahs and their interpretation of Shariah. The Taliban’s often repeated promises to create an inclusive Islamic society may suggest a new openness but only to those willing to accept its terms.
The rights of women will be another controversial issue. The achievements made by women within the last couple of decades are most likely to be at stake since the Taliban persist on the implementation of Sharia Law, based on their radical ideology. The Taliban show inclination in restricting the social and political role of women in the future government unless the international community and Afghanistan’s international allies put strong pressure on the Taliban to maintain the current role of women and do not curtail their freedoms. Women are highly concerned about the return of the Islamic Emirate. In short, if the Taliban seek to revive the strict law and restrictive culture enforced during 1990s, women would be the main victims. Scores of educated women and female politicians will take refuge to neighboring states as well as Europe. The vulnerability of women and their rights is presaged by the Taliban’s restrictive culture in areas under their control. Women wear burqa, a head-to-toe covering, in the Taliban-dominated areas.
Both men and women are apprehensive about the future government as peace talks have reached deadlock and violence and bloodshed escalated. The Taliban seem unwilling to resume the negotiations as they are making inroads into districts. However, the public uprising and local mobilization against the Taliban will be a great obstacle to their progress as well as an indication that Afghans are against the group and its ideology. Facing public mobilization, the Taliban are likely to return to the negotiating table.
Every individual and group, including women ethnic minorities, have their own concerns about the return of the Islamic Emirate and the ongoing conflict. They find their achievements, beliefs, or ethnicity vulnerable to the Taliban’s fundamental ideology and dogmatic perspective. 
Lack of regional and global actors’ inclination in pressuring the Taliban to return to the peace table is also disconcerting. Afghans are surprised by the indifferences of the region and the globe, including the US and its allies, to the ongoing conflict as well as stalemate in the talks. The entire globe, including the neighboring states, are playing the role of spectators, which is a matter of serious question for the Afghan ordinary people. In short, people are worried about an unbreakable stalemate in the talks as well as global indifferences to the consequences.