Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Why is the Afghan Government Afraid of the US Direct Talks with the Taliban Group?

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Why is the Afghan Government Afraid of the  US Direct Talks with the Taliban Group?

Since the beginning of the Afghan peace process, the Taliban group have always refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government but have called for direct talks with Washington. In the month of Ramadan this year (2018), Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan, announced a seven-day ceasefire, hoping to encourage the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. In return, the Taliban announced only three days of Eid as a ceasefire, and after the end of the Eid Ceasefire, they continued their suicide bombing and attacks on the Afghan military bases. The government of Afghanistan after the seven-day ceasefire expired, extended the ceasefire unilaterally for another 10 days, but the Taliban responded to the Afghan government’s ceasefire with severe onslaughts on the Afghan military citadels. Finally, Ashraf Ghani ended the one-sided ceasefire and ordered the security forces to step up their military operations against the Taliban.
Unfortunately, these ceasefires did not change the stance of the Taliban - not to negotiate directly with Kabul. When Kabul’s actions from pleading Taliban to announcing subsequent ceasefire for bringing them to the peace talks process did not get anywhere, the Tramp administration finally urged its diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, reflecting a dramatic change in American policy - not to communicate directly with the Taliban - against war in Afghanistan. But the silence of the Afghan government in this regard is indicative of fearsome dreams of Kabul from Washington’s direct talks with the Taliban group.
On the first days of his reign, President Tramp held a press conference to announce what was considered a major change in US policy towards the Afghan government - although the new American policy was really a bold, new policy, it was not a strategy. Political analysts argue that President Trump’s office is quietly looking for significant changes in its approach, leading senior US diplomats to direct talks with the Taliban.
The US new approach to the peace process led by the Afghan government is brought up at a time that the Taliban views the Afghan government as an illegitimate and the US handpicked government and has long argued that it only negotiates with the United States that overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001. While the United States constantly insisted that the Taliban should talk directly with Kabul.
A recent report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), points to another factor that could persuade Washington to seek direct talks with the Taliban. According to the report, the Afghan government has control or influence over only 229 districts from 407 districts, and the Taliban controls 59 districts and in 119 other districts, there are battles between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents. Meanwhile, the United Nations said that in the first six months of this year, civilian casualties reached 1692, which represents the highest casualties since the start of the United Nations investigations in 2009 in Afghanistan.It is argued that the above factors, eventually, led the US to begin direct talks with the Taliban groups.
On Sunday last week when the New York Times reported that US officials are looking for direct talks with the Afghan Taliban insurgents because peace talks led by Afghans will get nowhere, it was a kind of heart attack for the Afghan government. That is why Kabul did not take a vivid stance about the new approach of the US against the peace talks with the Taliban yet.Now that Washington wants to negotiate directly with the Taliban - why is the Afghan government afraid of the US direct talks with the Taliban?
Kabul’s fear from Washington’s direct talks with the Taliban group is derived from several issues. First, the political legitimacy of the Afghan government - that is, if the Afghan government is sidelined in peace talks with the Taliban, it echoes that the Afghan government is a puppet state of the United States andit does not have full authority in large-scale political decision-making. Second,the Afghan government fears that itmay not be able to bring up all its demands in peace talks with the Taliban if the US leads the negotiations.
Third, apart from the aforementioned reasons, political experts believe that the Afghan government leaders want to campaign for themselves for the next presidential election via winning the Afghan peace process. For this reason, the Afghan government persistently insists on the direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban group. Because if Ashraf succeeds in bringing the Taliban group to the negotiating table, this can be a great success during his rule, and the president will both be adored inside, and outside Afghanistan. Moreover, he willbe marked the hero of the 17-year-old Afghan war with the Taliban if he can end it.
The Afghan government’s unilateral ceasefire has raised Ashraf Ghani’s popularity so much that even Harvard’s professor Zarif Aminyar penned an article about him entitled “Could Ashraf Ghani Become the Gandhi of Afghanistan?” Mr. Aminyar holds that Ghani is a reformist leader, whom the US government strongly needed as a partner over the years of unforeseeable Karzai’s regime. If the United States wants to restore peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, Dr. Ghani is undoubtedly one of the best options for leading Afghanistan. President Ghani is full of love and passion to end the war and conflict in Afghanistan, but the United States seems to be suspicious.When the prospective conqueror of the Afghan war is praised in such manner, then it is obvious that the US direct talks with the Taliban group can overturnand cloud these sweet words.
Last but not the least, every smart politician knows that the Afghan conflict is a multidimensional conflict that involves Afghan, regional and global actors. Given its inherent complexity, none of the key actors have the key to solving the crisis in Afghanistan. Therefore, the peace process in Afghanistan will be challenging and require time. The only alternative to this continuing bleeding and instability is that the parties involved in the Afghan war should provide a path to the peace process.Therefore, if the leaders of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have a dream that they will win the Afghan battlefield through holding direct talks with the Taliban and can manipulate this victory in the future presidential elections in their favor, is a false and shortsighted calculation.

Hamidullah Bamik is a Fulbright Scholar and Graduate Student in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA E-mail:hamidullahbamik@mail.missouri.edu

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