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

Why Internal Consensus Is Required to Deal with the Taliban on the Battlefield and at the Negotiating table

Afghanistan has been caught in conflicts since socialist revolution in 1978. Afghanistan as multi ethnic state enjoyed relative internal flexibility before that. However, the conflicts of Afghanistan are rooted in the social fabric of Afghan society and monopoly of the resources and opportunities by a certain family of an ethnic group. In such a context, when competing groups’ goals, objectives, needs or values clash the aggression and violence is a result.
The socialist revolution changed social fabric of Afghanistan due to ideological clash. In the then bipolar world, this conflict invited the involvement of external actors (USSR & USA) to interfere in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of the USSR troops it was expected the conflict may end in the country. However, after the withdrawal of Soviet troops this conflict sustained till 1992. The Mujahidin who had become new masters of the war torn country added fuel to the fire by converting an ideological clash into an ethnic one. Taliban replaced the Mujahidin but their religious orthodoxy also failed to bring national cohesion.
Afghanistan governments have been able to address the roots causes of conflicts in the country. As a result, the long sustained conflict had direct bearings on national and individual life of people of Afghanistan who have lost their ability to work together. Failure in forming social cohesion and integration has led to failure of all attempts including reaching to a peace deal in the country. Lack of social trust have made Afghans not rely and trust each other and lose their motivation to work together and to rebuild their institutions and economy. It is the legacy of the long war that is still going on. A closer look at the last 40 years’ traumatic history of the country clearly illustrates the complexity of the problem due to clash of divergent aims and objectives of several parties.
As such, Afghan politicians could not reach to a consensus before the Intra-Afghan peace talks on crucial issues including putting an end to the current war and embracing a durable peace, protecting territorial integrity, infrastructures, joint values, women and other people’s rights as the obligation of the Afghan government and defending the above-mentioned ones against any offense.
As the peace talks is in stalemate and Taliban is stretching war from districts to the provincial capitals, it is imminent that the Afghan government is at existential threat. Afghan ordinary people who shoulder the main burden of the conflict expect the political and Jihadi leaders to put their disputes aside and prioritize the interests of the nation. On the other hand, international community and regional countries also expect Afghan leaders to reach to a consensus on the vital issues of the peace talks.
Based on the above mentioned topics, the Afghan government mounted efforts to bring most of the Afghan political and jihadi leaders together in order to reach to a consensus on vital issues on the country. Among these topics, supporting the ANSDF is the core issue because if our national security institutions are preserved and strengthened, Afghan government will manage both the war in the battlefield and peace talks in the negotiations table. As the evidence show, Taliban do not believe in the political settlement. They are pushing their war strategy with direct and indirect supports of the Afghan neighboring countries according to the deals they have already made. As a result, it required the government to develop a plan to change the situation in the battlefield in order to create a military stalemate to bring the Taliban to a genuine peace talks to the table. Changing the narrative of the war is the first step to the peace. As long as Taliban push for taking the power by force, peace narrative will not prevail in Afghanistan. Therefore, Afghan political jihadi leaders needed to convey a clear message to the Taliban and their internal and external supporters on a durable and dignified peace and a system to ensure their rights.
Consensus building among political groups in the societies with shallow social fabric is very challenging. Lack of social trust in such societies make people to be suspicious about political decisions, not rely and trust each other and lose their motivation to work together. Afghan society is not an exception in this regard. However, the new consensus on peace talks and supporting the ANSDF by all Afghan political and jihadi leaders is a fundamental move forward if they show their political will in practice. It can bring fundamental changes in the battlefield and negotiation table.