Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

Scuttling Intra-Afghan Dialogue Will Have Horrible Consequences

The Taliban’s escalated militancy is likely to challenge the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue. There is still disagreement between the Taliban’s political leadership and its rank and file. The Taliban seek to gain concessions at the negotiating table through intensifying their attacks against Afghan combatants and non-combatants.
The Taliban’s indiscriminate attacks have slowed down the peace process and increased the public hatred against their leadership. The recent series of attacks, mainly against civilians, have outraged the collective conscience in Afghanistan.
Condemning the Taliban’s latest attacks, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted that “our approach will remain conditions based. We will press for completion of prisoner releases, reduction of violence, complete delivery of CT commitments and start of and progress in intra-Afghan negotiations.” He added, “There has been major progress, albeit slow, on prisoner releases. The Taliban and the Islamic Republic negotiating teams have made progress on logistics for intra-Afghan talks. No American has lost his/her life in Afghanistan to Taliban violence. Regional relations have improved. But more progress is needed on counterterrorism.”
The Taliban are said to carry out their attacks along with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks in some provinces. The Taliban’s tie with Al-Qaeda and their denial of reduction in violence are against their agreement with the United States. Despite this fact, the US is carrying out the first phase of its commitments under the agreement which includes troop reduction departing the fives bases in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika and Laghman provinces.
The terms of the peace deal were straightforward — the Taliban would continue to respect the ceasefire and agree not to allow either Al-Qaeda or Islamic State to operate from Afghanistan. For its part, the US agreed to reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan from more than 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days of signing.
The US also committed to work closely with its NATO and non-NATO allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over that period, and to pull out all remaining forces from Afghanistan within 14 months if the Taliban forces adhered to their security guarantees and ceasefire, and a political solution could be reached between the Taliban and the Afghan government. 
However, the Taliban have secured none of their commitments. Links between the Taliban and international jihadi groups remain as strong now as they ever have been. In its latest report on Afghanistan, the U.N. Security Council said: “The Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties. Al-Qaeda has reacted positively to the agreement, with statements from its acolytes celebrating it as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global militancy.”
The Trump administration has to be highly cautious and put pressure on the Taliban leadership to fulfill its commitments under the agreement. Many believe that if the US seeks a hasty troop withdrawal without regard to the ongoing security situation in Afghanistan, the Taliban are likely to be allied with Al-Qaeda and work hard for the establishment of the “Islamic Emirate”, in which human rights as well as constitutional principles will be at stake.
Regional stakeholders should also increase their pressure on the Taliban leadership to honor their deal with the White House and reduce violence. If the Taliban continue their acts of terror and increase their attacks against Afghan soldiers and civilians, the intra-Afghan talks will be scuttled.
The Taliban should also ensure that the released prisoners do not return to battlefields, as a number of them have reportedly done so. That is, the prisoner releases should pave the ground for the intra-Afghan dialogue rather than adding to the Taliban’s forces and increasing the level of violence.
A number of the Taliban fighters have reportedly been against the peace deal and seek the government’s collapse. It is believed that if the Taliban sign a peace deal with Kabul, a number of its militants will join other terrorist networks. The competing visions of a postwar Afghanistan within the Taliban’s ranks reveal the difficult task facing the group’s leaders as they seek to rally support for an agreement with the government in Kabul ahead of talks.
Overall, the Taliban will serve the aim of peace spoilers through the increased level of violence and scuttle the intra-Afghan talks. If the intra-Afghan talks are derailed, the consequences will be horrible, especially for Afghan people, which will neither be in the interests of the Taliban nor of their supporters. If regional states fear the spillover, they have to play constructive role in the peace process.