Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 16th, 2019

What Is Next in The Pipeline for The Afghan Peace Initiative

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What Is Next in The Pipeline for  The Afghan Peace Initiative

The American led Taliban peace negotiations abruptly ended, when the U.S. president Donald Trump, pulled the plug on the talks after Taliban claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide attack, taking 12 innocent lives including a U.S. marine serving in Afghanistan. The eleven month rigorous peace talks initiated last October, primarily aimed at bringing America’s longest war to an acceptable end.
Following the attack in Kabul, the U.S. president took on twitter, lashing out at the group, for attempts in intensifying attacks on civilian targets, largely to gain better leverage on the negotiation table. Before the abrupt unraveling of the peace talks, Taliban officials and Trump’s peace envoy Ambassador Khalilzad, were seemingly content on the progress made, and were due to discuss final details with respective leaderships.
This drastic halt in the peace process came much to Taliban’s surprise; they had previously got away with deadlier attacks on Afghan civilians and military personnel, but much to their regrets, this time an American service member happened to be among the dead. Earlier that week, the group had started celebrations on forcing a great deal of proposed terms on the American side in their favor, and were anxiously weighing in on signing the final draft in a celebratory fashion in the coming days. In tweets that ensued, president Trump also revealed a top secret in the process; sometimes early August, Ambassador Khalilzad, had extended an offer from White House to the group for face to face meeting with the commander in Chief himself in Camp David; U.S. presidents’ vacation retreat. Camp David is best known for its intrinsic role in major political decisions and facilitation of pivotal peace concords on multiple occasions. President Trump was scheduled to meet with representatives from the Taliban political office based in Qatar, and the de facto Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, discussing details on the peace agreement, and demand assurances from both sides to keep the deal alive.
Soon after the conclusion on the 9th round of talks with the Taliban in Doha, Ambassador Khalilzad flew to Kabul to share a synopsis of a possible peace deal with the Afghan president, and CEO Abdullah. Apparently the meeting went sour, with unconfirmed leaks later suggesting major disagreements between the Afghan president, and his American counterparts, on terms inked in the U.S.-Taliban peace accord. The Afghan government is adamant on circumventing its pivotal role in the process, and expresses profound concerns, in giving recognition to the insurgent group as the Afghan Islamic Emirate in exile on the proposed text shown to the leaders of the unity government in Kabul last week.
President Ashraf Ghani’s rhetoric over Taliban’s refusal to directly engage with his government on peace talks is well documented. Afghan president is a vocal critic of any peace deal prior to the Afghan presidential elections timed for September 28th.  Taliban, on the other hand, equivocally follow a systematic directive from Islamabad that prohibits the group from direct engagement with the resident Afghan government, it sees as anti-Pakistan and an obstacle to its strategic interests. Where Afghan government favors an intra-Afghan dialogue with the group, Taliban simply do not share the same sentiments.
The Afghan crisis revolves around many diversely opinionated stakeholders; the self-proclaimed Taliban emirate in 1996 was officially formed, under direct auspices of the Pakistani Intel Service Intelligence, and the establishment. From the very inception, Taliban have remained steadfast in proving its loyalty to that of Pakistan’s Afghan contra affair. The group heavily relies on Pakistan for safe maneuvers, enabling the group for active diplomacy with all interested stakeholders; Iran, Russia and China, obviously pinpointed intelligence from the ISI and Pakistani establishment oxidizes the group in the battle field. Pakistan is heavily invested on Taliban, the group made tangible grounds with logistical and tactical support from Rawalpindi generals in 1995, they then successfully dispersed and pushed warring Jihadi factions in marginal corners of the country, subsequently establishing an isolated totalitarian regime, led from southern Kandahar province, with limited international recognition.
Taliban’s constant persistence on complete U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan is mainly influenced by dictates coming from Tehran, Moscow and Islamabad combined. These adversaries, to that of the United States, share a common concern of no American boots adjacent to their respective borders with Afghanistan. After all, it was the green light from the Obama administration that allowed the group to open a political office in Doha, presenting an unprecedented opportunity for the group, to establish futile contacts with the Russians and Iranians under that cover.
When Ambassador Khalilzad launched his diplomatic mission, he laid out a detailed framework for his new assignment; the former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Iraq and United Nations under President George W. Bush, Mr. Khalilzad, a veteran diplomat with Afghan descent, was tasked to focus his efforts on the following discussions.
1. Acquiring formal assurances from Taliban in cutting ties with Al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups.
2. Guarantees from the group in not allowing Afghan soil for any attacks on America and its allies around the world.
3. Upon reaching a possible agreement, Taliban would resume direct peace talks with Afghans representing different walks of life.
In return the United States would honor its commitments and timely deliver on its promises that included:
A.            Gradual troops’ withdrawal, beginning with five thousand resident American soldiers from five bases in about five months time.
B.            An immediate release of all Taliban prisoners in American and Afghan custody.
C.            A comprehensive reintegration plan funded by the U.S. administration for transitioning Taliban fighters into Afghan society.
Both the Americans and Taliban had agreed in principle on all the above mentioned terms, until the peace talks hit a rock bottom, following a series of tweets by the U.S. president, renouncing Taliban tactics on increased violence, and killing of an American soldier. President Trump, at least for now ended the talks, and promised heavier poundings on Taliban positions, across the country. Here in Washington, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also issued a subpoena to Trump’s special Afghanistan envoy, Zalmai Khalilzad, to appear and testify before the panel and shed lights on the failure of U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations.
Taliban increasing attacks is aimed at disrupting efforts and readiness on the eve of Afghan presidential elections, the group strongly opposes. Pursuing a tit for tat policy, in response to president Trump’s, sudden halt on peace talks, the insurgents’ representatives in Doha, hastily traveled to Moscow and Tehran, for consultation on latest developments; publicizing relations with U.S. adversaries; is in part to lure the Americans resuscitate the Doha rendezvous process.
Last but not least, with the Afghan presidential elections inching closer, the fate of the stalled U.S.-Taliban peace talks remains at limbo. Taliban’s pre-conceived notion of Americans leaving Afghanistan with or without a peace truce can backfire with serious repercussions for the group at any time. Giving the status quo, president Trump, facing a cloud of criticism and warnings from top American former military generals and intelligence community may backtrack on his initial promise of major withdrawal and use the American diplomatic might to isolate the group on the international scene. Nevertheless, chances for resumption of the Doha process is extremely likely in the coming days to come as well.

Naser Koshan is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmai.com

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