Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

What Khalilzad’s Peace Deal with Taliban Brought About to Afghanistan?

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What Khalilzad’s Peace Deal with Taliban  Brought About to Afghanistan?

After more than eighteen years of war in Afghanistan, the United States and the Taliban reached an agreement in what was both sides’ most intensive efforts to end the longest war in US history. This move spearheaded by the US Afghanistan-born Special Representative for Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad was welcomed by the Afghan people in a lukewarm vein considering initial efforts gauntness. That is to say, since the signing of agreement, no tangible changes have come in the Taliban behavior, nor any visible difference in the Taliban’s conduct emerged post the deal. But an increase in civilian casualties vis-à-vis previous years, according to a new report by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), added to the people’s despair similar to other fiascos once again.
Surprisingly, the violence began to spike almost immediately after the deal’s signing at the end of February. And Afghanistan’s National Security Council said: “The Government’s findings from the field demonstrate that the Taliban and their allied terrorist groups are responsible for the vast majority of the civilian casualties.” The statement further maintained, “These hideous attacks occurred after the US-Taliban deal in Doha and the Taliban’s commitment to decrease violence never sit tight, as they see terrorism as the only path.”
Ancillary to this, existing tensions between the US and Taliban leaders cast doubt on the proper implementation of the peace deal and reduction of violence, which introduced has introduced Khalilzad’s efforts airy-fairy in the eyes of the Afghan people. They started looking at Khalilzad as a political charlatan who solely worked his fingers to the bone to secure US interests and was heedless of the Afghan people plight. Last year the Afghan National Security Advisor, Hamdullah Moheb, accused him of delegitimizing the elected Afghan government by excluding it from his peace negotiations with the Taliban and acting like a “viceroy.” Similarly, the head of Afghanistan Institute of Strategic Studies, Dawood Muradian, in a recent article called him someone unable to abandon his “Pashtun ethnic chauvinism”.
On the Afghan government part, unfortunately, amidst Doha talks, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai Taliban’s chief negotiator while standing at a hotel lounge told a journalist, “There is no mention of a ceasefire with the Kabul administration in the agreement; thus our fight against government forces would continue unabated.” Hence, it’s still unclear how the Afghan government security experts perceived this statement of Stanakzai clearly stating that there will be no reduction in their fight against Afghan security forces, nor would they show an iota of affability in this respect. Thus instead of holding a rigid and firm stance, the Afghan government kept offering different quixotic and one-sided olive branches of little avail under different titles towards them and still continues to do so.
Ironically, yet the release of 4,199 Taliban POWs by the Afghan government to date has turned into another puppet show. On the one hand, it releases them every fortnight and claims the deal for not specifying who should be released, on the other. This scrappy handling of prisoners’ release outraged the people on many occasions accusing the government of giving the Taliban payoffs in exchange for nothing. They claim that after a short while, the very prisoners released from Afghan prisons have returned to frontlines and resumed Jihad against the security forces which the Afghan government endears as heroes, but unleash caged Draculas on them by its own fair hands. Maryam Azizi, a journalist from the Badakhshan province wrote on her twitter handle the other day, “Mr. President! Releasing Taliban prisoners was a great injustice towards the people.” and many other examples.
This, in turn, let all the blood and treasure spent in their capture go waste. Intransigently, they continued their barbaric attacks more aggressively the 13 July, Aibak city of the Samangan province complex attack following a car-bomb blast which killed eleven security personnel, 43 civilians including children and bringing down large government buildings to ashes was the live example.
According to Global Conflict Tracker, “only in 45 days after the agreement (between 01 March and 15 April 2020), the Taliban carried out more than 3,800 attacks in Afghanistan, which showed an increase of more than 70% as compared to the same period in the previous year.” Confirming the same number, Afghanistan head of National Directorate of Security (NDS) told a news conference that after the peace deal, Taliban attacks in different parts of the country had claimed 420 lives and 906 wounded as the number goes on.
Political experts hold that the Taliban have become stronger more than ever in the last nineteen years. With an estimated sixty thousand fighters at their command, they control many districts throughout the country and continue to stage major attacks, including in Kabul and Afghan security forces. They get millions of dollars from poppy cultivation and the illegal drug trade, which poses further hurdles for the peace process to stand tall. Likewise, some analysts are concerned that rank-and-file Taliban fighters might not abide by the peace deal as they are neither fed by a single hand nor under a congruent command. Thus, the process could be intricate to a feeble government, eaten up by ethnic, sectarian, and tribal differences, but stills in its capacity, it should act in a judiciously rigid manner, on the one hand, to preserve the last two decades achievement and, on the other, contain a sensible stance when it comes to the deal.
Now, in people’s eyes and since its onset, this peace deal has neither remedied any wounds as for Afghans and Afghanistan nor has brought about any remarkable ray of hope for them to rest upon thus far. What they have seen in this is only happening all over to the losing end of the equation and have gained nothing short of further miseries, killing, and destruction. Being in such a metastable state and giving such generous concessions to the Taliban by the US and the Afghan government is not lacunae to any problems. Still, it increases the level of people’s fear to lose the half-baked democratic values they have achieved during the past couple of decades and revert to the earlier dark eras.
Any further abeyance by the US and the Afghan government will not only improve the current embroiling situation, but if persisted will grant more momentum to the Taliban as ever saddling of which would not be a walkaway for any capable hands.

Abdul Qahar Bakhshi has a Master’s Degree in international relations. He is a former employee of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) and a contributing writer to different national and international publications. Currently, he is working on translation of a book from English to Persian about Afghanistan. He tweets @aqbakh.

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