Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 21st, 2018

Major Barriers of Peace Talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan

Afghanistan witnessed a short but promising 3 day ceasefire during the EidulFitr. Shortly, after the 3 day ceasefire ended, the Afghan government extended it to 10 more days and announced it was ready to extend the ceasefire for a year if the Taliban agrees with it.  However, Taliban leaders on Sunday roughly rejected the government’s proposal to extend the ceasefire and said they were ordering all insurgent fighters to resume operations against “the foreign invaders and their internal supporters.”
The timing of the unilateral ceasefire was very well elaborated and auspicious. Even, both sides may had coordinated the ceasefire deals before being announced publicly.
The Regional and International actors have voiced strongly their support from the Afghan government peace initiative e.g. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared ready to tweak the policy when he welcomed Ghani’s 10-day extension of a ceasefire that is currently due to end on Wednesday. “As President Ghani emphasized in his statement to the Afghan people, peace talks by necessity would include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces,” Pompeo said. “The United States is prepared to support, facilitate, and participate in these discussions.” In addition to this, Beijing and Moscow have welcomed President Ashraf Ghani’s recent initiatives to promote peace in Afghanistan.
In Beijing, the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said China appreciates Kabul’s efforts for achieving peace in Afghanistan. He added Beijing remained willing to work with the international community for peace in Afghanistan. Beijing would keep playing a constructive role in stabilizing the war-hit country. Meanwhile, Russia called the conflict in Afghanistan a ‘fratricidal war,’ hailing the government’s decision to extend the ceasefire.
As realizing peace in Afghanistan seems to be one of the top national, regional and international agenda of some of the key world players, the question which raises here is that, what are the obstacles to peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan?
We would identify and discuss some of the fundamental obstacles that require to be addressed to reach a sustainable peace deal with the Taliban. They include the following:
The issue of ‘foreign fighters’
In 2013, Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen stated: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan simultaneously follows both military and political options and aims which are limited to Afghanistan.” This shows that the Taliban have distanced themselves from the international terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda and its global jihad as well.
Then the question that needs to be answered is, what will happen to the many foreign fighters in Afghanistan who supported the Taliban?
If a peace accord is reached, will they arrest these fighters and surrender them to the government? What would do the government with these fighters? 
It is clear that the Taliban would not join hands with the Kabul government, backed by the US, to fight al-Qaeda allies or ISIL. Therefore, would a peace accord have a real impact on the conflict in the country? As the experience of Peace accord with Hizb e Islami shows, in such case, a peace deal with the Taliban may not impact greatly on the security situation in Afghanistan. 
Withdrawal of all foreign forces
In September 2014, Afghanistan signed a bilateral security agreement with the US that allows 10,000 US troops to remain in the country.  And a similar agreement has been signed with NATO that allows 4,000 to 5,000 additional troops to stay in Afghanistan to provide training supports to the ANSF.
However, one of the main demands Taliban has been the immediate and full withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan. The question which shall be answered is, would the US government agree to scuffle its security deal and leave, given the security threats posed by ISIL and other terrorist groups against its national interests from Afghanistan? Should Afghan government observe a two year notice to be given before US and NATO begin their withdrawal? And what will happen to the weapons of the Taliban during those two years?
Reforming the Constitution
One of the demands by the Taliban that creates major concerns, is pushing for constitutional reforms, with an emphasis on mentioning the word “sharia” in the Afghan constitution instead of the “Islamic law”.
Ensuring this demand is facing 3 major obstacles: first, including the word “sharia” presents challenges for donor countries, whose constituencies would oppose funding a government that is constitutionally required to implement sharia. Second, if the word “sharia” is not incorporated into the constitution, the Taliban would see this as a major backlash. Third, it may pose certain barriers to religious minority groups in Afghanistan as it was the case during the time they ruled Afghanistan. They followed a strict and harsh approach both to other Islamic religious groups including the Shias and Non-Islamic groups including the Afghan Hindus and Sikhs. They also had a very restrictive and violent policy against women in the country. As a result, position of the Taliban on women should be clarified in any peace deal in the future.
Sharing the Power
It may be one of the most conflicting demands by the Taliban. Since Power-sharing needs concrete action - it is not merely a political practice encompassing signing agreements and shaking hands.
Indeed, based on a peace deal, Taliban fighters should be integrated into the Afghan military and security forces, and some key positions in government should be allocated to Taliban officials.
Based on the Bon agreement, the power-sharing mechanism has been identified ensuring the relative share of all the Afghan major ethnic groups. So far it is not clear if these positions would be given to the Taliban from the Pashtuns share or power out of the total share of the major ethnic groups of the country?
As Afghanistan’s current experiment in power-sharing between the two 2014 presidential candidates, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, has so far been a failure.  Further, there are deep disputes at all levels in the country. As a result, power-sharing of the government not only would be a chaos but could also be complicated by internal divisions within the Taliban.
In a nutshell, all afghans support a peace deal with Taliban to put an end to the prolong conflict of Afghanistan. At the same time, they want a transparent peace process, including how concerns of minority groups including women, and religious groups would be addressed in such a process. Sharing-power is already a conflict-prone issue in the country and if there is not a consensus made on such a mechanism among the major ethnic groups of Afghanistan, such a peace deal may not end the current conflict.