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

Collective Demands: Reduction in Violence, Responsible End

In his recent visit to Kabul, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated the need for reduction in violence with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. He said that the Biden administration wants to see a “responsible end” to the conflict in Afghanistan but violence must decrease for fruitful diplomacy to have a chance.
Reduction in violence is still on the top agenda of the Afghan republic team. Afghan officials and ordinary people have called on the Taliban on multiple occasions to reduce violence and stop killing civilians.
However, the Taliban continue violence and bloodshed for two possible reasons. First, the Taliban leadership sought to gain concessions through escalated militancy. Second, the political leaders could not persuade their military commanders and rank and file to reduce violence.
In addition to Afghan people, the entire world, including the United States, have urged reduction in violence, but the Taliban have so far held out against it.
In his recent remarks, however, the Taliban political spokesperson Mohammad Naeem Wardak said that the Taliban leadership has shared a 90-day reduction in violence plan with the United States, but it yet to be agreed upon. He added that reduction in violence does not necessarily mean ceasefire but will lead to a decrease in all operations by the group in Afghanistan.
Wardak is cited as saying, “We proposed a draft in December, which involved all operations being reduced, but so far a final agreement has not been reached.” The people of Afghanistan are highly concerned about the high level of violence and consider it a major hurdle to peace and stability. With the Afghan New Year, Nowruz, the people of Afghanistan pray for peace and hope that the Taliban leaders and Afghan political leaders, with the support of the international community and regional and global stakeholders, may reach a negotiated settlement and put an end to the four decades of war and violence. In other words, Afghans are highly frustrated with unmitigated violence. Hence, peace and stability is their highest wish and desire. It is self-explanatory that civilians have borne the brunt of violence as a result of the Taliban’s indiscriminate attacks. The human rights of the people are being violated on day-to-day basis and their freedoms are curtailed.
If this trend continues, peace will remain elusive.
It goes without saying that reduction in violence will be the first step towards peace and will be conducive to reaching an agreement. Reduction in violence is likely to build trust between the negotiating sides and will also create room for optimism.
Afghans appreciate the US’ pressure on the Taliban to make them accept reduction in violence.
It is believed that the Taliban are pressured to succumb to this proposal after holding out against reduction in violence from the start of the US-Taliban talks in Qatar up to now.
Reduction in violence and responsible withdrawal of foreign forces are two main topics in the peace talks. If, on the one hand, the Taliban reduce violence, leading to a comprehensive and countrywide ceasefire, and, on the other hand, the US forces withdraw responsibly – in a way that political chaos does not emerge again after their pullout – the bulk of the problem will be resolved. It is important to note that if the Taliban leadership is not pressured in one way or another, violence is unlikely to be reduced and reaching peace agreement will be tough. I have reiterated in some of my earlier commentaries and editorial pieces that regional and global stakeholders have to use their leverage on the Taliban to push the peace process forward.
Meanwhile, Afghans have been apprehensive about the hasty withdrawal of US forces, which is likely to create a security vacuum. Afghanistan’s neighboring countries also urged Washington not to withdraw its forces in a hasty way.
With this in mind, a “responsible end” will be appreciated and will also protect the blood and treasures invested in the country in the last couple of decades. The seriousness of the Biden administration regarding peace process is crucial, but setting a limited timeframe for reaching an agreement is not reasonable.
The contours of peace talks are multi-layer and complicated. Unfolding all issues at the peace table will be time-consuming. Peace does not simply mean absence of war. The talks have to result in sustainable peace. Hence, haste will make a real waste in peace process. The Taliban and the Afghan government have to seize the created opportunity and reach an agreement. If this opportunity is lost, peace will remain elusive forever. Worst, the security situation will be deteriorated.