Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

What If There is no Peace in Peace Talks?

Although it was believed that the US and Taliban would sign a peace agreement within few weeks, there appears to be no breakthrough in the talks. Washington has urged the Taliban to reduce violence and declare ceasefire.
The Taliban leadership refused to declare truce but agreed on reduction in violence, however, the US side still insists on declaration of ceasefire and prolongation of violence reduction, which has been pointed out by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad – who has briefed Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on the negotiations in Kabul. It indicates that Khalilzad shows that he considers the demand of Afghan nation and state.
Since the US and Taliban have been holding a series of negotiations behind closed doors, Afghans have shown concern about the outcome and expects the US not to sign a hasty deal with the Taliban and not agree on a hasty withdrawal. The public concern still continues over the backdoor talks, which are open to multiple interpretations and analyses as a result of not being clear.
It is believed that the Taliban focus on two issues: First, international recognition for the Taliban leadership carries high significance for them. So far, the Taliban have played multiple games such as traveling to many states and holding informal talks with Afghan delegation in Russia to gain international recognition. Their haggling over higher prices and refusal to hold talks with the Kabul administration, which have prolonged the negotiations, are also intended to gain international recognition.
Second, the Taliban do not consider the demands of Afghan people, including women, seriously. Regarding the peace agreement, the Taliban view their positions more important. In other words, the Taliban focus on how to rule Afghanistan rather than pondering about the rights and freedoms of the public.
Political analysts reiterate the inclusiveness of the talks, in which global actors and regional stakeholders should also be engaged actively and constructively. Ahmad Saeedi, a former Afghan diplomat to Pakistan, is cited as saying regarding Khalilzad’s trips, “I think these trips will not bring peace unless the Afghan government, the Afghan people, and the Taliban – among themselves and their international supporters – and the US reach an agreement on peace.”
Khalilzad made multiples trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan to brief the Pak-Afghan officials about the US-Taliban talks. Before his recent visit to Kabul, he met with Pakistani officials, including Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi, Chief Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and other government officials.
The role of Pakistan has been viewed by Afghan people and political analysts very crucial in the US-Taliban talks as well as intra-Afghan dialogue. Pakistani officials also said that Pakistan had played crucial role in pushing the Taliban to the peace table with Washington. Some of Pakistani officials directly or indirectly talked about Islamabad’s strong leverage on the Taliban leadership.
With this in mind, the Kabul administration will welcome Pakistan to put its weight behind the intra-Afghan dialogue. Pakistan has reiterated its support to intra-Afghan talks, however, yet to prove its positive role.
There are still several serious flaws in the talks. For the one, the US-Taliban talks are not transparent since Afghans are kept in dark.
Second, there is neither a national nor an international consensus over the talks. Afghan officials and heads of political parties do not hold a unanimous agreement on the talks. They have conflicting stances. For example, the government urges for ceasefire before the start of intra-Afghan dialogue, however, some political heavyweights and heads of political parties urge for intra-Afghan dialogue without the declaration of ceasefire from the Taliban side.
Meanwhile, some seasonal supports by regional stakeholders are reported. That is, a number of states vow to support the start of intra-Afghan dialogue or “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” talks. However, they lose their inclination apparently in the wake of the complication of the talks.
If regional and global actors do not support the talks in continued way and Afghan political figures do not reach a consensus, the talks will continue without positive result.
Meanwhile, if the Taliban do not show more flexibility and ignore the demands of Afghan people and government, conflict is likely to continue.
All in all, the Afghan government will appreciate the constructive role of any countries, who seek to pave the way for intra-Afghan dialogue. Meanwhile, the Taliban’s interlocutors have to consider the transparency of the talks and the demands of Afghan people and seek not to sign a deal with haste. Global actors are also expected to continue their support more seriously. If these issues are not considered, there will be no peace in the peace talks.