Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, December 9th, 2019

Inclusive Talks Will Bear Fruit

As the Afghan government seeks to find a peace deal with the Taliban, China is going to host an intra-Afghan dialogue. After the US-Taliban negotiations were halted, a Taliban delegation visited some regional states, including China, for the resumption of the talks.
Although China had a limited role in Afghanistan’s peace building over the past two decades, it has engaged actively in 2015 with the formation of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group – composed of the United States, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Since then, several Taliban delegations have met Chinese officials.
Earlier, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had reiterated China’s support for a “broad and inclusive peace and reconciliation” process in Afghanistan. “We support the intra-Afghan dialogue between the Afghan government, the Afghan Taliban and other parties. We are ready to offer convenience and assistance for Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process based on our respect for the will of all relevant Afghan parties,” she is cited as saying.
Afghanistan is forming a delegation for the talks. But political leaders seem discontented with the delegation being formed by the government and do not view it as inclusive.
A mistrust between Afghan political leaders and the government emerged as political leaders participated in a peace meeting with the Taliban hosted by Moscow. Disapproving of the meeting, the Afghan government said that political figures had no executive authority. In other words, most of the political parties and political actors in Afghanistan have bypassed the state by directly contacting the Taliban or expressing interest in the so-called “intra-Afghan talks” in the absence of the state. It is important that the state should not be reduced to a faction. Instead peace talks should be state-centric.
It is self-evident that peace cannot be concluded through a bilateral peace accord between two groups – be it US and Taliban or Afghanistan and Taliban. If the Taliban group is sincere in the talks, it has to hold talks with both the government and its international allies.
The Afghan government is seeking to be included in the talks. But it has to form a national inclusive team, including political leaders, women, and civil society activists.
The Taliban should not bargain much at the peace table, especially regarding democratic gains and women’s rights. Study shows that 59.5% of the people urge that the Taliban must respect human rights and women rights. Similarly, 49% of the people claim that the Taliban should respect Afghanistan Constitution. Hence, there is strong domestic resistance to the replacement of the current democratic system with any system which limits the rights, liberties, equality in front of the law, and political participation.
However, in February Moscow conference, the Taliban delegates stated that women could not become president of the state and could not judge the cases related to Hudood and Qisas.
Hafiz Mansor is cited as saying, “I think we cannot negotiate with the Taliban on two issues: (1) territorial integrity of Afghanistan and (2) the second chapter of the 2004 constitution on fundamental rights and liberties of citizens. Rest of the issues are open for negotiations.”
It seems naïve to fully buy the promise that the Taliban has totally changed to accept liberal democracy, gender equality, and civil liberties. There are still a number of serious ideologues or politically motivated figures within the group who intend to restrict women rights and resist against democratic achievements.
Moreover, the public call on the Taliban to reduce violence and do not target civilians in a gesture of goodwill for peace. Killing civilians for bargaining for higher price at the negotiating table is a wrong strategy that the Taliban should stop.
Overall, the Taliban has constantly refused to hold talks with the Ghani administration despite the fact that the National Unity Government formally proposed the Taliban group, in February 2018, that the government was willing to recognize it as a political party and that it could participate in the system.
Since intra-Afghan dialogue has reached a stalemate, Afghanistan will appreciate if regional stakeholders and global powers seek to broker talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government. All involved parties, the Afghan government, and regional and global powers need to jointly continue to work toward state-building and find a reasonable end to the conflict in Afghanistan. To put it succinctly, the role of regional and global stakeholders is highly instrumental in pushing the Taliban to the table with the Kabul government and reducing violence.