Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Pessimism and Optimism about Intra-Afghan Dialogue

The recent intra-Afghan dialogue amidst the seventh round of talks between the Taliban and the US representatives in Qatari capital of Doha has generated hope for meaningful talks between the Taliban and their Afghan interlocutors. But the ordinary Afghans were disappointed as a result of the deadly terrorist attack in Ghazni province, which killed and wounded hundreds of combatants and non-combatants, including women and children.
The heavy casualties as a result of the attack in Ghazni outraged the public conscience and mounted Afghans distrust in meaningful talks. According to general belief, the Taliban signaled for talks and ushered in intra-Afghan dialogue, but carried out deadly attacks in Ghazni, which show the Taliban are not genuine at the table.
However, officials believe that the recent intra-Afghan dialogue have broken the ice between the Taliban and their Afghan interlocutors. In the two-day meeting, the two sides had reportedly discussed women’s rights, freedom of the press, civilian protection, ceasefire, and withdrawal of foreign troops. 
At the end of the talks, the two sides issued a “resolution” which included: Consensus on inclusive Afghan negotiations, being committed to a united and Islamic country, supporting the ongoing Doha peace talks, assuring that women’s rights are ensured in political, social, economic, educational and cultural areas within the framework of Islamic values, building trust environment with observing the international humanitarian rights – including minimizing civilian casualties and respecting their fundamental rights, etc.
To allay the public concern, the spokesperson to the Taliban’s political office in Doha Suhail Shaheen is cited as saying that the Taliban would respect freedom of speech, women’s rights, and other human rights values within the framework of Islamic laws and principles. “We agree with freedom of the press within the structure of the Islamic principles.” He also said, “Women have the right to get education in line with the Islamic principles and media should be neutral.”
Notwithstanding Shaheen’s statements, the public still view the Taliban with doubt and mistrust and do not believe that the Taliban’s mindset would have undergone a considerable change. For instance, Shaheen repeatedly restricted all his words with “Islamic principles” as he would intend the Taliban’s interpretation of the Islamic principles. The Taliban also back their radical ideology and their ongoing insurgency by religious tenets. With this in mind, if Shaheen means Islamic principles with Taliban’s interpretation, it will not be acceptable to Afghan people.
The rights of women have been also discussed in the dialogue with the participation of some women representatives, however, Afghan women are still skeptical about the Taliban. They fear that the Taliban would restrict their rights and freedoms under those Islamic principles that they have always mentioned. To mitigate the public concern, the Taliban had better base the rights and freedoms of women on legal framework and Afghan Constitution, which has a specific committee for interpretation, since the constitution also supports Islamic tenets and endorsed with the participation of high-level clerics. Thus, if agreement is signed between the Taliban and their Afghan interlocutors, they have to use legal terms rather than religious terminologies, which would be complicated for being vulnerable to multiple interpretations and would leave a huge loophole for the Taliban to exploit the terms.
The aforementioned topics discussed by the Taliban and their Afghan interlocutors had been so broad and expansive. That is, the two sides had to discuss and finalize fewer issues rather than unfolding broad range of topics without a definite conclusion.
Minimizing civilian casualties has been a highly significant and necessary issue discussed by the two sides and it is the main achievement of the intra-Afghan dialogue if the Taliban really do not violate their commitment in this regard. Hopefully, the two sides would agree on declaring ceasefire in the next round of intra-Afghan dialogue.
The dialogue has been ice-breaking and would have removed some mistrust and misunderstandings. The challenges would be solved if the Taliban and their Afghan interlocutors come to the table with clear demands and bona fide intention for peace.
The recent intra-Afghan dialogue has been the fruit of the struggles of Germany and Qatar, which co-hosted the meeting, and shows their active engagement in the talks. If regional stakeholders and Afghanistan’s neighboring countries also engage more actively and constructively, the peace talks would come to fruition. Hence, the Afghan government welcomes the constructive engagement of all countries in the talks and their support for intra-Afghan dialogue.