While the peace efforts are being revived, ending the violence in the country is one of the key demands of the Afghan government as part of a peace deal with the insurgent groups. A four-way meeting is set to be held on January 11 to consider a framework for resumption of peace talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China are going to participate in the talks in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. The talks in Islamabad are the first such initiative over the peace efforts since the fledgling negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban stalled in July. The initiative was agreed between Afghan officials and visiting Pakistani army chief last month after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had fresh talks for renewing efforts to kick-start the peace process in Afghanistan.
The most notable aspect of this round of efforts for getting the peace negotiations back on track is that it involves four nations which, in addition to Afghanistan and Pakistan, also include the United States and China. The Afghan government hopes to see Pakistan committed to its obligations and promises in the process through participation of the United States and China, who has considerable political and economic influences over Islamabad, in the meetings for launching the peace process. In last years, China started to play a role in the efforts for peace in Afghanistan, and the country is increasingly interested in the regional efforts for resolving the Afghan conflict. Getting China involved in the process has been one of the main goals of the national unity government in the efforts to persuade Pakistan to play a supportive role in the Afghan peace process.
The negotiations over the framework of the peace process are coming while the Taliban continue to launch offensives against Afghan security forces in embattled provinces. The trend of violence in 2015 and the ongoing insurgency in the country suggest there will a tough year ahead for the Afghan security forces battling to contain the insurgency. Disregard of the peace process – which is far unlikely to produce a concrete result for ending the violence in near future – Afghanistan will see another bitter seasonal campaign of the Taliban in 2016. Given the widespread insurgency, the Afghan government seems to be in a hurry to resume peace negotiations with the Taliban to reach a deal with the group to end violence in the country. However, the desperateness of the Afghan government in the current round of peace efforts practically gives the upper hand in the war and peace efforts to the Taliban.
Despite talks over the resumption of the peace talks, the Taliban have again attempted to scale up the level of violence across the country to have a better position in the haggling over peace conditions. An unconcluded and ongoing peace negotiations itself provides a stimulation to the Taliban to wage a more escalated war against the government. Therefore, it is crucially important for the Afghan government to escalate the anti-insurgency campaign and take the war to the Taliban rather than expecting end of violence through conclusion of the peace process. The government needs to wage a bitter campaign against the insurgent groups in the current winter season as the Taliban are not well-fitted for a winter campaign. This will help the government strike a harsh blow to the Taliban at a time when they are most vulnerable. Only by a partial supremacy on the battleground, the government of Afghanistan will be able to pursue a viable peace deal with the Taliban.
The most daunting challenge to the peace process would be lack of a room for compromises between the Afghan government and the Taliban over key issues such as the Afghan constitution and a prolonged presence of foreign troops. The government of Afghanistan – and Pakistan – aim to persuade the Taliban to denounce violence by political and economic concessions. This may prove very hard for the Taliban elite to negotiate on such concessions with the Afghan government as the Taliban leadership is now in a weaker position than any time before for controlling the various factions of the militant groups. Leaving the Taliban aside, reaching a common ground would be difficult in the first place among the stakeholders of the process including the Afghan political spectrum. However, the Afghan government has indicated its willingness for negotiating the constitution except the parts relating to rights of citizens and nature of the country’s political establishment.
What is crucially important at current stage is end the devastating violence in the country. The Afghan government forces are currently battling with various militant groups, some of which are not under control over influence of the Taliban. This would particularly make the achievement of a sustainable ceasefire with the insurgents unlikely. Still, any concrete peace process should oblige the militants, particularly the Taliban, to denounce violence and end the bloody conflict in the country. Without a concrete achievement for stopping the bloodshed in the country in the very initial phases of the peace process, no peace deal agreement would last for long. Therefore, the government needs to communicate will all the stakeholders in the process and promote its demand for a lasting ceasefire with the Taliban.