Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, June 17th, 2019

Taliban’s Unreasonable Bargain is an Obstacle before Fruitful Talks

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Taliban’s Unreasonable Bargain is an Obstacle  before Fruitful Talks

The third meeting between the Taliban and US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been held in Abu Dhabi with the presence of officials from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to find a negotiated end to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.
The third preliminary talks were organized by Pakistan two days after Kabul hosted the second round of trilateral ministerial dialogue to strengthen tripartite relations between Kabul, Islamabad and Beijing and push the Taliban to the peace table with Afghan government.
The recent talks triggered optimism for two reasons. For the one, it was called a progress in the peace process and both Afghanistan and regional and international stakeholders were highly optimists about the issue, despite the Taliban’s refusal to sit around the table with Kabul’s team.
Second, since the talks were sponsored by Pakistan, both Kabul and Washington appreciated its positive role and urged Pakistan to continue its support to the peace process. In addition, the presence of three heavyweight regional stakeholders Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who officially recognized the Taliban’s regime (1996-2001), is most likely to carry much weight in the peace process.
Trust-building between Kabul and Islamabad is of high significance for regional peace and prosperity. In his interview with a Chinese monthly magazine China Investment in June, Pakistani Ambassador to China Masood Khalid commented on the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Minister’s dialogue very positively. He said the meeting would contribute to peace and stability in the region as well as regional connectivity. Khalid said, “The trilateral forum will contribute to the greater connectivity, economic prosperity and peace and development of the three countries and the region.”
Moreover, in his first official visit to China in late November, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese officials agreed to strengthen cooperation in Afghan issue and support the “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” peace process. Meanwhile, China appreciated the close coordination between Kabul and Islamabad through the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity with the aim of enhancing mutual cooperation.  
With Imran Khan’s leadership, the trust deficit between Kabul and Islamabad is being diminished and the recent talks triggered more optimism. Nonetheless, Taliban’s repeated refusal to hold talks with Kabul government, their unmitigated attacks against Afghan soldiers and civilians, and their persistence on withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, without promising to stop their insurgency, are a matter of great concern, especially for Afghan people. In the talks, the Taliban have demanded “a date or timeframe” for the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan before their decision to participate in intra-Afghan peace process.
The Taliban are bargaining for very high price on the table. To announce a six-month ceasefire, the Taliban have reportedly said that Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE should promise the establishment of interim government in Afghanistan and appointment of one of their favorite leaders for the government. Bargaining for such a high price is a win-lose game and will clearly indicate Taliban’s victory, which is not acceptable for Afghan government or nation. That is, the Taliban are bargaining for the leadership of Afghan government despite all privileges being given. They intend to give nothing in return for the withdrawal of foreign troops, release of their prisoners, and removal of their leaders’ names from the UN blacklist.
Paying heavy sacrifices for democracy and democratic Constitution, Afghan people will never accept an interim government under the Talibanic sharia. Who will promise Afghan people of being able to exercise their rights and freedoms under an interim government with the Taliban’s leadership? What about the sacrifices of thousands of lives and millions of dollars for the establishment of a democratic government?
To view the Taliban’s high demands, the national and international optimism seems baseless. The Taliban have to be reasonable in their demands and do not miss this opportunity or else they have to face the consequences.
Kabul government expects Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to put pressure on the Taliban to sit around the table with the Afghan government. Moreover, Kabul expects the three sides will use their leverage on the Taliban to stop their insurgency for less price namely their amalgamation in the government’s body, release of their prisoners and removal of their leaders’ names from terrorist list. 
Furthermore, Taliban’s interlocutors have to be very cautious not to be tricked in the talks since the Taliban do not pay significance to international principles or agreements. Meanwhile, it should be noted that agreement with the Taliban without the presence of Kabul team is neither possible nor acceptable. What is more, Afghan people should not be kept in dark regarding the issue.
The peace talks are still a gleam of hope for Afghan nation. It is hoped Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and international allies will be able to put an end to the ongoing conflict which has resulted in heavy casualties.

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

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