Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 15th, 2019

Taliban not Genuine Negotiators

Despite the issue of talks, as the Taliban and the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad are preparing for the seventh round, the Taliban insurgents have intensified their attacks and suicide bombings turning down to declare truce.
In the second round of talks, held between the Taliban and Afghan political figures in Moscow, the Taliban negotiators insisted on the full withdrawal of US troops. However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said in his recent statement that Washington’s campaign against terror groups in Afghanistan would continue unabated notwithstanding the Taliban’s persistence for a complete troop pullout from the country. “No one has suggested the US is going to leave Afghanistan until our counterterrorism interests are addressed. … That is nonnegotiable,” he is cited as saying.
The Taliban and US negotiators have reportedly agreed to a draft timeline for two issues: the full withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and dismissal of the Taliban’s tie with terrorist groups, including the ISIS and al-Qaeda. Nonetheless, Khalilzad made it clear that nothing was agreed unless all issues were agreed.
Ushering in his trip to meet regional officials in Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, Belgium, and the United Arab Emirates, to step up peace talks, Khalilzad tweeted that peace process was making strides. “We’ve made substantial progress over the last month. On this trip, I want to take that momentum and accelerate the #AfghanPeaceProcess,” he wrote. Being optimistic, he called for parties to show “flexibility”.
There are some challenges before the peace process. First, the Afghan government and regional stakeholders have been marginalized in the talks between the Taliban and US representatives. If this one-to-one talks reach deadlock, there is no third party around the table to push for breaking. It is believed that engaging regional actors and the Kabul government would make the talks inclusive and productive.
Second, the Taliban are simply pushing for their demands without considering those of their interlocutors. Having said this, although the Taliban negotiators had been delisted from the UN blacklist, US troop pullout had been agreed, and some of their prisoners released, the Taliban had accepted not a single demand of their interlocutors and have intensified their attacks in recent months. The Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada has said, before the seventh round of talks, that foreign forces in Afghanistan are “condemned to defeat”, but signaled positively for continuing talks with the US. He added that the Taliban would continue their fighting without pause on Eid Day, a Muslim festival at the end of holy month of Ramadan.
Third, instead of siding with Washington in the talks, Russia continues a parallel negotiation to Doha talks through inviting the Taliban and US political and Jihadi leaders every once in a while. This would contribute to the Taliban’s international recognition and boost their morale for fighting. It implies that Moscow is showing Washington that it has leverage on the Taliban or close tie with their leadership simply to urge the US indirectly to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
Since the Taliban played a foul game with the Afghan government under the issue of peace talks in the past and killed the former head of Afghan High Peace Council Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, I have been viewing the Taliban’s intention with doubt and mistrust. So far, the Taliban group has not proved its bona fide intention for peace as it has intensified its attacks.
Dunford’s words for calling the withdrawal “nonnegotiable” have to be the response of Trump administration to the Taliban’s escalated militancy. If peace talks do not bear the desired result with the Taliban’s stubbornness and reach deadlock, there are two ways ahead. First, regional stakeholders need to engage actively in brokering the stalemate and push the Taliban to stop violence and bloodshed. Second, the US and its international allies have to continue their attacks stronger than ever. The defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the defeat of a highly strong Tamil Elam terrorist network in Sri Lanka suggest that a strong military deal will dismantle terrorist networks. Indeed, it is believed that if the NATO forces reinforce their attacks on the Taliban, boycott with their supporters, and dismantle their financing resources, the Taliban will be doomed to failure. To defeat the Taliban, Afghanistan’s borders have to be tightened, intelligence reinforced, suspects even within the government’s body investigated, and air and ground attacks intensified. Each soldiers should be allowed to shoot the militants on the head. So, the Taliban have to either come to table with genuine intention or have to face the consequence or military deal.