Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 19th, 2021

Afghans not Hopeful about Outcome of Moscow Conference

Moscow has hosted the Afghan peace conference to push the stalled intra-Afghan dialogue forward. China, Russia, Pakistan and the United States said they would not support the emirate system. Afghans are also highly apprehensive about the Taliban’s Emirate but keen on reduction in violence. Generally speaking, the peace process is still complicated and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The Moscow Conference is likely to be a step forward, however, the United States is seeking a hasty withdrawal, the Taliban continue their violence, and the Afghan government has its own preconditions. In other words, Washington pushes the negotiating sides to reach an agreement, paving the ground for its troop pullout. The Taliban seek concessions through the intensified attacks. The Afghan government is apprehensive about the US’ peace plan.
The Taliban are likely to view the peace process from business perspective and seek a win-lose strategy, which will slow down reaching an agreement. If the public demands are ignored and the Taliban focus on their personal demands and preconditions, an agreement is unlikely to be signed. The Taliban members, whose fathers fought against Russia, travel to Moscow with honor. That is, the Taliban view the issues of democracy, women’s rights and liberties, human rights, etc. from ideological perspective, but their trip to non-Islamic countries from a political angle. Afghan high-level officials, who participated in the Moscow Conference, hoped that the meeting could lead to reduction in violence and bear the desired result. Meanwhile, the Russian side reiterated talks with the leadership and ownership of Afghanistan without the intervention of foreigners. Afghan ordinary people are not really optimistic about the outcome of the Moscow Conference since the Taliban continue violence and bloodshed. Despite the national and international demands, the Taliban did not declare ceasefire or reduce violence, which increased the level of public disappointment and indicated Taliban’s insincerity in the talks. Although the Taliban are challenged ideologically, as they declared ceasefire with foreign troops but continue killing Afghan soldiers as well as civilians and are unwilling to reduce violence. Russia has strong leverage on the Taliban, but a number of people believe that such a conference will simply increase the Taliban’s credibility and recognition at international level instead of persuading them to stop violence and bloodshed. If the Moscow Conference could persuade the Taliban to reduce violence or declare truce, it will be a big step forward. On the contrary, if the meeting ends without any tangible results, it will be of no significance at all. In short, hosting a conference without result mean to strengthen the Taliban’s morale and cultivate friendship with the Taliban leadership. The host will also seek to create bombastic headlines in international media. A more inclusive conference is going to be held in Turkey with the participation of more countries, including Iran and India. Afghanistan’s neighboring countries carry much weight in the peace process if they use their leverage on the Taliban leadership. Pakistan is a heavyweight stakeholder in the Afghan peace process. If regional stakeholders, mainly Pakistan, play their role actively and constructively, the peace process will come to fruition in the near future. Regional and global stakeholders have to prove their genuine intention in practice. Afghan people view the Taliban with strong doubt and mistrust. In the Conference, China, Russia, Pakistan, and the United States called on the warring sides to reach an immediate ceasefire. But the Taliban will not accept the demand easily. However, the Afghan government is ready to declare truce if the Taliban do so. With this in mind, the Taliban are not genuine in the talks as they continue killing more people on day-to-day basis. Regional and global stakeholders, mainly the countries participated in Moscow Conference, have to pressure the Taliban leadership to declare ceasefire so as to build trust and pave the ground for reaching an agreement. The Taliban and the Afghan government have to seize the opportunity and sit at the negotiating table with goodwill. If the created opportunity is missed, both sides will lose. As a result, the people will bear the brunt of it. In a nutshell, if the negotiating sides do not use the created opportunity in the best possible way, the consequences will be horrible. The world as well as the warring sides understand that the current war will not be won through military means. Therefore, reaching a negotiated settlement is the only option left for both. They have to be flexible in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible so that Afghans do not sustain further casualties.