Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Unending Controversy over Peace Talks

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Unending  Controversy over Peace Talks

The peace negotiation has been a highly controversial issue within the last decade. Afghanistan and its allies have invariably urged the Taliban outfit to stop violence and bloodshed, which will benefit no parties. However, violence continued and took immense casualties in thousands of lives. The protracted war lingered with a lull and surge.
To view the relentless insurgency carried out by the Taliban guerilla fighters, the stance of Afghan and Pakistani governments and the Taliban toward peace talks should be considered.
Afghan government established the High Peace Council (HPC) in 2010 with a view to bringing the Taliban to negotiating table. Kabul government urged Pakistan to use her leverage to nudge the Taliban to peace table. Islamabad hosted a face-to-face talks between the Taliban and Afghan government and intended to host it for second time in Murree, which was known as Murree talks. However, the talks came to unbreakable stalemate after the revelation of Mullah Omar’s death. With Mullah Akhtar Mansour at the helm, the Taliban militants intensified their attacks against Afghan government without intention to hold talks. To break the stalemate, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) comprising of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the US was established. Notwithstanding this issue, the Taliban did not decrease their attacks. Subsequently, the US drone targeted Omar’s successor Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Baluchistan so as to facilitate talks. Mansour’s death aroused a mistrust between US and Pakistani officials, who said that it was violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity. Although QCG held a meeting in Muscat in late 2017, it did not have a palpable result, either.
The Taliban showed a sense of hesitation about peace process but they never stopped violence and bloodshed. For example, the former No. 2 of the Taliban, Aga Jan Motasim, who still counts the radical religious movement’s leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada among his friends, supported the peace process. Nonetheless, he was wounded severely by anonymous figures and a few of his friends were killed simply for advocating peace talks. It showed the Taliban’s lukewarm response to peace talks.
To cut it short, the Taliban militants continued their militancy and intensified their offensives against Afghan nation and state in recent weeks. The series of deadly attacks carried out by the Taliban, which claimed the lives of hundreds of people, was received with a strong sense of anger. As a result, the determination for talks was undermined to a great extent and Afghan soldiers and their US counterparts have intensified their attacks against the Taliban fighters.
This week, Kabul hosted a two-day conference which was attended by the top US commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson, Commander US Central Command (Centcom) Gen Joseph Votel and the army chiefs of Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Addressing the conference focusing on how to deal with escalating terrorism in the region, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said the path to regional peace and stability “passes through Afghanistan”. He added that Pakistan had eliminated all terrorist sanctuaries from its soil, however, “residual signatures of terrorists” who take advantage of the presence of Afghan refugees and lack of effective border security coordination, “are also being traced and targeted through ongoing operation Raddul Fasaad”.
The conference concluded with the agreement to continue cooperation for regional peace and stability.
The high-level conference comes less than a month after a series of deadly attacks rattled Kabul, following which a high-level delegation from the country comprising the interior minister and spy chief had visited Islamabad with a “personal message” from President Ashraf Ghani. The delegation held talks with Pakistani leadership on security cooperation amid the highly volatile security situation in the country.
According to Afghan officials, the delegation handed over to Islamabad “undeniable” evidence which claimed that the spate of deadly attacks in Afghanistan were allegedly planned in Pakistan. Despite Pak-Afghan delegations meeting for talks both in Kabul and Islamabad, little headway has been made in the peace talks.
Despite the fact that the Taliban played a foul game in the past and carried out large-scale attacks, Kabul government still leaves the door to negotiation open. The Taliban are most unlikely to reduce insurgency and join peace process, which will be a pyrrhic victory for Afghanistan.
It is time for regional agreement to combat terrorism with strong force. Both diplomatic and military ways have to be pursued but if the Taliban persist on their insurgency, no chance for talks should be given to them anymore. Although the Taliban showed reaction towards Donald Trump’s recent statement as he said “We don’t want to talk with the Taliban” saying that they will continue their attacks and suicide bombings, they never answered positively to peace offerings. Perhaps the open door for talks will be the last option for the Taliban or else military action should be adopted.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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