Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Optimism Lingers Even With Peace Talks Stalemate

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Optimism Lingers Even With Peace Talks Stalemate

The peace deadlock remains unbreakable despite all sacrifices paid by Afghan soldiers and civilians and casualties sustained by US-led NATO troops for more than a decade. Peace and stability are still elusive, albeit Kabul government sought all possible ways to stabilize the country.
In the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, Afghan Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah, however, said Afghanistan had “turned a page” toward peace in the last year and called for the support of world leaders in getting to “a new phase free of violence” in Afghanistan. He said Afghans “pose no danger to anyone” and seek to “play a constructive and collaborative role” in the region.
Despite the recent escalation in insurgency, Abdullah said the country is in its best position since 2011 to start a process resulting in peace talks with the Taliban guerilla fighters.
Abdullah’s statement in the UN General Assembly is believed to be in direct conflict with the real situation in Afghanistan as the death toll increases among soldiers and civilians, especially with the presence of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which was responsible for 52 percent of civilian casualties within the first half of the current year, based on the UN report. ISIL declared its Khorasan Province, known as ISIL-KP, on 26 January 2015 in Afghanistan and appointed the former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant Hafiz Saeed Khan as its leader, who was killed in US drone strike in July 2016. The ISIL-KP was widely involved in sectarian violence as it targeted Shiite ethnic group from its establishment up to now.
On the other hand, the Taliban hold out against negotiation with Kabul government and continue their insurgency. They stormed Ghazni province in August, which left hundreds of people, including soldiers and civilians, dead. This attack came after the Taliban held talks with the US diplomat Alice Wells in Qatar. Although the two sides were optimists and deemed the negotiation important and productive, insurgency did not only fail to decline but intensified and the Taliban’s unprecedented attacks on Ghazni filled the air with disappointment. In short, the intensification of violence could minimize the optimism generated by the US-Taliban talks.
The US-Taliban talks were described as a “preliminary” discussion to set up a channel between the group and senior US officials for further meetings. Therefore, the Taliban are said to prepare to send a delegation for further talks with the US officials and their discussion will include exchange of prisoners. “We would hand over a list of prisoners languishing in jails across Afghanistan. If they set free our prisoners then we would meet again for another great cause,” an anonymous source is cited as saying.
While the Taliban are willing to talk to the US, they refuse to enter into any negotiations with Afghan government. There is no indication yet of the insurgent leaders showing any flexibility in their hardline position on this matter. If the Taliban continue their insurgency in Afghanistan and in the meantime pursue negotiation with the US, it will be no more than a political game which has been ever played by the Taliban without any positive result for Afghanistan. So, which country will be able to push the Taliban to peace table with Kabul government?
As part of the promised cooperation on not providing shelter to Pakistan’s enemies on Afghan soil, the allies of Kabul government, in drone attacks in Afghanistan, killed a number of TTP leaders including Mullah Fazlullah and four other senior TTP commanders. This was followed by the killing of Umar Rehman, another leading TTP commander. The US would add that earlier when drones were operating more frequently in Pakistan and Afghan air space, former leader Baitullah Mehsud, Hakeemullah Mehsud, Said Khan Sajna, Mufti Waliur Rahman, Qari Hussain, Azam Tariq and Shahidullah Shahid were all eliminated. Also, in each of the past three years, there were fewer than 10 drone strikes in Pakistan, down from a high of 117 in 2010. Now both Kabul and Washington expect Pakistan to use its leverage in nudging the Taliban to peace table with Afghan government.
With sending a delegation to Kabul, Imran Khan’s administration promised to support Afghanistan in peace issues. Thus, there is still room for optimism about fruitful talks.
It is self-evident that if non-violent mechanism does not come to fruition and the Taliban continue their insurgency, Afghanistan and its allies and neighboring countries will have to intensify their attacks and the real war is won through the consistent dismantling of the network, their sanctuaries, their training grounds and recruitment centers and their financial systems.

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

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