Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, March 6th, 2021

Kabul and Washington Unlikely to Succumb to Taliban’s Demands

In their negotiations, the Afghan government and the Taliban are likely to be at an impasse. The Taliban continue their unabated violence and neither of the negotiating side seems ready to make major concessions. The Kabul administration and the Taliban are gearing up for a violent spring.
It is said that going to zero troops, as the Trump-Taliban agreement called for, would lead to civil conflict, render pointless the sacrifice of 3,500 coalition troops killed prosecuting the American-led war effort in Afghanistan.
John F. Kirby, the new Pentagon press secretary, said that the US new administration stood by the agreement, with its commitment for a full troop pullout, however, he expressed pessimism that the Taliban would do what they were supposed to: cut ties with al-Qaeda and reduce violence.
General Dunford, a former top US commander in Afghanistan, is cited as saying that beyond increased battlefield pressure, the Taliban want international recognition as a legitimate political movement and a relief from punishing economic sanctions.
The Taliban have threatened to resume attacks against American and other NATO forces if Washington unilaterally decides to keep its 2,500 troops in the country beyond the May deadline. The US forces are now hunkered down in about a dozen bases and perform two main missions: counterterrorism operations and advising Afghan security forces at various headquarters.
The Afghan government refuses to release further Taliban prisoners, for which the Taliban urged, and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who apparently promised the Taliban to have all their prisoners released, has threatened that if prisoners of the Taliban are not released, the violence would be intensified. Nonetheless, Afghan first vice president Amrullah Saleh said on a tweet, “We are prepared to prove case by case that every single Talib prisoners (5500 all) we released for peace are on one way or another involved in escalation of violence and campaign of terror against the people of Afghanistan. It was a blind trust without verification mechanism. NEVER AGAIN.”
Khalilzad made a terrible mistake through mediating the release of Taliban prisoners without any guarantee. After the release, the Taliban intensified their attacks sending their released fighters to the battlefield. After Khalilzad gave unilateral concessions to the Taliban, the people of Afghanistan were filled with rage. People initially believed that the US-Taliban peace agreement would lead to peace and reduction in violence across the country, but their hope was shattered as the Taliban intensified their attacks. With this in mind, Khalilzad should not insist on the release of further Taliban prisoners, but has to persuade the Taliban to return to the negotiating table and fulfill their commitments made in the agreement with the Trump administration.
In his recent remarks, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said that the world has to put pressure on the Taliban and their supporters. He reiterated that violence is not a solution to the conflict and Afghan clerics have condemned violence, saying that war in Afghanistan is against Islamic tenets.It is believed that if regional and global stakeholders, mainly United States and its international allies, do not put pressure on the Taliban group, it is unlikely to meet the commitments they made.There are two options left for the Taliban: accept the condition-based withdrawal of US troops and continue their negotiations with the Afghan government to reach a final decision or walk away from the deal they signed with the United States as well as from the peace table with the Afghan government and continue their violence. It is believed that since the peace talks have reached a critical juncture, it will be in the interests of the Taliban to continue their negotiations so that they could integrate into the political system. Walking away from the peace agreement, after Khalilzad made struggles for giving the Taliban both legitimacy and international credibility, would be highly harmful to the group. The Taliban will face horrible consequences in case of walking away from the table of negotiations.
Although currently the Taliban seek to impose their conditions on the United States and the Afghan government without honoring their peace agreement with Washington, they are unlikely to succeed. If Washington as well as the Kabul government do not succumb to the Taliban’s demands, they will finally show flexibility. In short, the Taliban are aware of the horrible consequences of walking away from the agreement they made with the Trump administration.
The current deadlock in the peace talks will be brokered through putting pressure on the Taliban and their backers. The Taliban have to reduce violence and stop killing people and honor their deal with Washington.