Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 17th, 2020

Why the Afghan Peace Talks Led to Deadlock

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Why the Afghan Peace Talks  Led to Deadlock

It was about seven or eight years ago that Afghan officials and international allies commenced encouraging Taliban to join peace talks but none of the efforts led to a formal negotiation between the warring sides within the long mentioned period. Last year, when the US accepted the direct negotiations with Taliban, it has formally started between the US and Taliban delegations in Qatar, but after nine rounds of talks it did not produce a positive result. Initially, the process has created a lot of hopes and optimism but the long period of talks, marginalization of Afghan government and repeated intensification of war has raised many questions and skepticism among Afghan political community and people. Eventually, the long term negotiation had led to an agreement between the US and Taliban but the suicide bombings in Kabul, which killed a US officer, put a stop to the Qatar talks, and Donald Trump declared the Qatar process dead.
The outcome of the long negotiation was nothing except changing the Taliban from a small terrorist group to a resisting national group. Availing the opportunities, the Taliban representatives traveled to the capitals of regional powers for more political bargaining and thus farther succeeded to marginalize Kabul. After the peace cancellation, though the Taliban expressed their enthusiasm for start of negotiations, and Pakistan also demanded the resumption of the US-Taliban talks, some of political thinkers come to a conclusion that the Taliban does not have an actual will for peace. They want create more political opportunities in the political field and at the same time they want to occupy more territory in the battle field. The recent Taliban attacks on Ghazni and other parts of the country could be considered as an example.
Although the peace talks between the US and Taliban restarted after a four months halt, the problems and challenges of peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban seem more complicated than ever before. If these problems are not properly scrutinized and evaluated, it could jeopardize the entire peace process. Now, the peace stakeholders are not only the US, Taliban and Afghanistan but also long list of regional powers including south Asian countries, Central Asia and Russia, China and also some of middle east countries. The Taliban repeated visits to these countries indicate that the Afghan complex war may not come to an end unless the interests of all sides are ensured. Therefore, it is hoped that the apparatus of foreign affairs and also Qatar peace negotiators consider these points.
Apparently, the main purpose of the peace talks is to pave the way for smooth withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The US interests should not be threatened by the Taliban and their affiliated groups and Afghanistan should not become a safe haven for various terrorist groups. But the Taliban’s suicide attacks on key US-related centers at this critical times show that the Qatar negotiations do not meet those expectations and purposes. In addition to the aforementioned hypothesis about regional coordination, the Taliban’s suicide attacks on the US centers can also mean that either the Taliban want to maximize their interest pressuring the Americans to accept the group’s demands in Afghanistan, or there is no consensus among the Taliban military commanders about peace. Seemingly, some of Taliban military commanders may think to lose their positions as their future fate remains ambiguous after peace success.
Based on the first hypothesis, the Taliban top leaders and commanders feel themselves in high political status in the peace process. At least it can be said that they have imposed the longest and most costly war on America and its Western and regional allies. On the other sides, the US media and some of it politicians have confessed their defeat in this war with all their might and power, and now Taliban force them to enter into political negotiations. When the Taliban find them in a superior position, it is natural that the Taliban speaks from a stronger position and exerts more military pressure on the rival.
According to some analysis, the reality is not so simple. Although some of the policies have made them become overconfident, absolutely they are not in such a level to impose its demands on a superpower. The discontinuation of previous negotiations revealed the true power of the group in the political arena. After stopping the talks, they felt that they had lost the greatest political opportunity and so they started knocking every door to restart the talks. For the Taliban, no other process can fill the Qatar process; neither the Moscow process nor the Beijing negotiations. Therefore, it is unlikely that the Taliban restart military strikes as they see the outcome of such attacks on the peace process.
The second hypothesis, which is inconsistency among Taliban groups, is closer to the ground reality. In recent years, the Taliban have lost their ideological integrity and so increasingly set their inter-group relations on the basis of personal interests. Therefore, the militias are not willing to give up the war unless their future interests are ensured after the peace process while the required harmonization between the political and military sectors of the Taliban has not yet been established. For this reason, the peace process with Taliban will not lead to a positive outcome unless there is no unanimity among all sections of the group about peace process. Hence, even if the Qatar peace process ends to agreement with Taliban, it will not fully help insecurity reduction and stability in Afghanistan.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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