Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Taliban Play Foul in Peace Talks

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Taliban Play Foul in Peace Talks

The Afghan-Taliban peace process has been one of the most complicated issues within the past decade and the Taliban elements still seek to continue this political game. Despite tireless struggles made by Afghan government to bring the Taliban to negotiation table, the process has always been at a low ebb and insurgency continued unabated which inflicted casualties upon the NATO coalition forces and Afghan combatants and non-combatants. Violence and terror have been intensified within the last two years since the Taliban operated under “spring offensive” and “Omari Operation” – the issue was compounded with the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Afghanistan as some members of the Taliban pledged loyalty to them after the demise of their spiritual leader Mullah Muhammad Omar.
Peace talk was also a hot debate between Kabul and Islamabad. Pakistani officials said that talk was the only viable option to gain peace and promised to bring the Taliban to peace table. As a result, in March Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had said that the Taliban leadership lived in Quetta, and Pakistan was using that as a leverage to persuade them to engage with Kabul. Moreover, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), which was formed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States, held five meetings – the fourth meeting was held in Kabul on February 23 and the fifth one was in Islamabad on May 18 just days before the death of Omar’s successor Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, who never succumbed to QCG’s calls and pressures.
With Mansoor at the helm of the Taliban insurgents, Afghanistan left a bloody year behind and the graph of police and civilian casualties increased rapidly. Afghanistan’s National Security Forces (ANSF) have massively suffered from the violent war that warring factions, mainly the Taliban, have fought since 2001. According to available data, until April 2015, around 92,000 people – including ANSF, US military, and Allied troops, as well as civilians – were killed in Afghanistan as a result of the war. The number will be much higher now, given the worsening security situation in 2016. Last year, the first since NATO ended combat operations, civilian casualties hit a record 11,002, with 3,545 deaths and 7,457 injuries. It was estimated that 60 percent of casualties were caused by anti-government forces including the Taliban, ISIL, etc.
This year, the Taliban warned that they would “employ large-scale attacks on enemy positions across the country” during the offensive dubbed Omari Operation in honor of the movement’s late founder Mullah Omar, whose death was announced last year.
The Taliban outfits responded to peace calls negatively and showed no interest in this regard despite the Quadrilateral efforts and persistence. With the Taliban’s fatal attacks carried out in Afghanistan’s soil, the relation between Kabul and Islamabad turned sour. Unlike his predecessor, Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani asked Pakistan in a serious tone to operate against the Taliban and do not treat the Taliban fighters, who were wounded in wars versus Afghan and US soldiers, in its hospitals.
It is believed that Mansoor’s death led the peace process to stalemate and ended the glamour of hope. Contrary to this fact, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was elected as Taliban’s deputy supreme leader last month, has said in an audio message that the Taliban were not against negotiation of peace if it was held on the basis of Islamic Sharia. In response to the question that the Taliban did not favor political dialogue, he is quoted as having said, “Our Political Commission deals with the issue of negotiations. If we were opposed to talks, we would have never formed this commission. This was a consensus decision of the Taliban leadership.” He called Afghanistan “a puppet administration” arguing that Afghan government had no power in implementing any decisions and international community was “forcing” his group to join the administration. He added that the Haqqani network was part of the Taliban and “Islamic Emirate is one”.
Not surprisingly, whenever the Taliban undergo casualties on a larger scale and run short of aid, they signal for talks so as to mollify Afghan soldiers to decrease the operation. By now, Afghan officials must be used to the militants’ untimely call for talks, which is used as war strategy rather than having a bona fide intention for peace. In another item, the militants seek to get relief under the term of peace negotiation and they will soon deny it. The question is that if the Taliban intend to resume talk, why they held out against it more than a decade and ushered in Omari Operation this year?
The vacant seat of the Taliban’s leader around the peace table will never be filled the same as Omar and Mansoor’s times. The paradoxical rhetoric of Haqqani, if the audio is not fake, such as “puppet administration” and inclination for talks is not justifiable in Taliban’s radical ideology. Warring parties, including the Taliban, should not be let anymore operate with impunity under peace term as they played foul a thousand times and our nation is not to fall victim to this trick.

Moreover, Kabul and Islamabad should end the roller-coaster-ride relation and join forces to counter insurgency and eliminate sanctuaries of the Taliban and Haqqani network as persisting calls for peace talks were futile.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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