Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Peace Talks Prone to Escalating Tension in the Region

It is feared that the US-Taliban ongoing talks in the Qatari capital of Doha will be vulnerable after the escalating tension between Iran and the United States following the US killing of Qassem Suleimani, the powerful commander of Iran’s Quds Force.
US officials are concerned about the vulnerability of the Afghan peace process and its Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran sought to undermine the process. Some feared that the Taliban will be handed more sophisticated weaponry if peace talks reach a stalemate. A former Afghan intelligence chief, Rahmatullah Nabil, said on Twitter that it would be “no surprise” if such missile technology made its way into Taliban hands if a peace deal were to fall through.
Any American reaction launched from Afghan soil is likely to put more pressure on Afghan officials and create further hurdle before the negotiations.
Richard Oslon, a former US special envoy to Afghanistan, is quoted as having said, “If we get into a prolonged, low-intensity conflict with Iran – which I think is likely, unfortunately – then the US may get to thinking that we are going to need to stay in Afghanistan and maintain a relatively robust military presence to threaten Iran from the rear. If we reach that decision, then I think that pretty much means the end of the peace process in Afghanistan.”
However, Afghan officials, including President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, have assured Tehran that, based on the security pact signed between Kabul and Washington, the Afghan soil would not be used against another state.
Peace talks have been a very slow process and could not lead to a mitigation of violence so far. The US representatives called on the Taliban to reduce violence but no development has occurred despite the group’s consultation with its military council in Pakistan.
However, a Taliban former member Mawlawi Abdul Shakoor Mutamen is cited as saying, “The military council of the Taliban has agreed [on a reduction of violence]. They are waiting for the signature of the emir of the Taliban.
“The Taliban have agreed to consider a reduction of violence in response to the call for a ceasefire,” former Taliban commander Sayed Akbar Agha has confirmed.
The troop withdrawal is also on the table and the Trump administration seems to be in a hurry, especially after the escalating tension between Tehran and Washington, to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Moreover, military disengagement in Afghanistan’s issues will be crucial for Trump’s presidential campaign in the US upcoming election.
Washington is likely to step up its efforts for the Afghan peace process so that the US-Iran tension does not derail the talks. It is self-explanatory that the Trump administration is very serious to reach a deal with the Taliban leadership.
If the Taliban see Tehran’s support to their insurgency, they will bargain over a higher price and would hardly declare truce. Perhaps, they may continue their intensified attacks against American soldiers to gain concessions.
With the ongoing turmoil, the US will urge regional actors, mainly Pakistan, to push the Taliban for a peace deal with Washington. It is believed that if Pakistan uses its leverage on the Taliban as talks have reached an important juncture, no whistle-blowers will be able to derail the talks.
Meanwhile, inclusion of the Afghan government in the talks will further pave the ground for their fruition. The US should put pressure on the Taliban to negotiate with the Kabul administration. That is, for ending the 18-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, a trilateral agreement, including Kabul, Washington, and the Taliban, should be signed with the stipulation of all issues.
Feeling Tehran’s weight behind, if the Taliban bargain over higher price and intensify their attacks to gain concessions, the peace talks will be derailed. In such a case, peace and stability will remain elusive that will also have a repercussion on the region. Both the US and Taliban will sustain the harm. Afghanistan will bear the brunt of the conflict.
In the current sensitive time, global powers and regional stakeholders have to engage constructively in the Afghan peace process and de-escalation of tension between the Taliban and the US. If global powers and regional actors remain unconcerned to the escalating tension, the instability and challengers will snowball across the region and all states will be affected adversely in one way or another.
In addition to engaging regional stakeholders in the peace talks, Washington should not sign a deal with the Taliban that puts Afghanistan’s stability at stake. That is, the US should not focus on troop pullout but on Afghanistan’s security.