U.S.-Taliban, peace talks that had been going on for more than a year stopped by a tweet of US president Donald Trump declaring the talks as dead. After more than two months’ deadlock, the process is seemingly in the course of rescheduling its position. The talks may restart, perhaps from where they left. But Khalilzad apparently proposed the release of American University teacher taken hostages by Taliban and as counteract Taliban reportedly demanded the release of their prisoners including Anas Haqani. The release of Taliban prisoners turned to be bit tougher than estimated by Taliban and Dr.Khalilzad.
In full contradiction with what Taliban abusively accuse president Ghani as US puppet, while it is true that Ghani enjoys the capacity and competency to repel US pressure. He has counteracted accordingly by asking US to coerce Taliban for a good will gesture, that is ceasefire and direct peace negotiation with the government on country’s political settlement. Apart from having lots of weak points and many reservations regarding the existence of negative aspects in his domestic policies, I categorically support his demands and believe that ceasefire in defiance with the wishes and aspirations of the people and direct talks in compliance with the sensitivity of the time are imperative and inevitable.
The inter-afghan meeting that is expected to take place in China would most probably initiate the inter afghan dialogue, if there weren’t disagreements by either side that who from the Afghan government delegates should attend the meeting and in what capacity.
The world community in general and Afghans in particular, assume that an immediate cessation of violence is top priority. So it is essential that we all together (the government, Taliban the People and the world community) must be willing to pay for the desired peace. It should be categorically stated that there would be no peace, unless all the relevant sides somehow sacrifice their interests as cost to achieve the objective of peace and stability in the country.
The common Afghan thinks that if the warring parties are really serious about peace, they should declare an immediate ceasefire, release prisoners and start direct and productive peace negotiation subject to the prior time limit as per-condition for final deal.
The tragedies of the people of Afghanistan could be ended if both the Taliban and Kabul have the courage and determination for a durable peace in Afghanistan. We strongly believe that the international community has a significant role to play in compelling both sides to end violence. Due to some kind of complicated interlinks among the anti government armed opposition groups, the reduction of violence in Afghanistan is impossible to be kept an eye on.
All sides of the tragedy must take confidence-building measures (CBM) including, the extension of ceasefires and greater transparency in coordination between Kabul and insurgents in delivering basic services in Taliban-controlled areas. All sides should practice and perform more tolerance and measured attitude during the ceasefire. Last year’s three day-ceasefire has proven that all Afghans, including warriors, realized that what a gigantic blessing, peace can bring them. It is clear that the current shape of direct U.S.-Taliban talks are not either solution nor productive, as one the three main warring sides, Kabul Government has been excluded from the talks and that is the most negative aspect causing to block the peace deal. If The Taliban still reject their direct engagement with Kabul or even if they accept intra-Afghan talks, such talks would only be the start of a long and difficult road toward a permanent peace settlement among afghans.
There is overall consensus among Afghans and the world at large, that foreign forces must be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Their existence in Afghanistan is considered as posing threats to our independence and national sovereignty. Furthermore, the countries of the region are also sensitive for having the US troops in their neighboring country. Though, we all believe that the withdrawal must be orderly and responsibly. The irresponsible exit of the US troops would not only pose threats to the security and structural existence of Afghanistan, it would rather threaten the region and the world at large.
Despite the fact that the peace talks between US and Taliban were led the wise but wily Afghan-born American Diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, most of afghans have been highly skeptical of the peace negotiations. The Taliban’s unwillingness to engage themselves in direct talks with the government conjoined with Taliban leadership perception that Americans are tired and will use the peace talks as a muddy nose to cover their defeat would not only hurt the US image in the region, but will result in severely damaging consequences for Afghanistan as well.
Violence is the main instrument of influence that the Taliban possess. Therefore, any deal that required them to stop it comprehensively and indefinitely would make them intensify their reservations and uncertainties. The main reason for this behavior must be the lack of trust among Afghan rival warring sides. So it looks imperative that the course of inter afghan dialogue must be restricted by time limits for the success of the negotiation and final agreement. The sooner it signed, the more it could allow the Afghan economy to gradually stabilize.
Both sides think they are in mighty positions for those talks: Ghani, because he is the internationally-backed leader of the country, and because his country’s security forces still control areas of the country where about 60% of the population lives, including all the country’s big cities. The Taliban, because they have been gradually gaining control the territory and because the West is tired of this war and clearly wants out and the Afghan government would not be able to sustain its survival after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Focusing the above mentioned issues the afghan political leadership supported and facilitated by US, China, Russia and regional countries must coordinate and organize their joint efforts to find ways for some kind of deal between President Ghani and the Taliban based on national and international considerations and interests. However, taking into account the parties’ enmity with each other, the blood that has been spilled, and how contradictory their visions are, finding a deal will be undoubtedly very difficult.
It looks extremely vital for success of peace deal that during the ceasefire course, frozen rival forces must be monitored by preferably U.N. peacekeeping mission to observe their behavior.
It is also essential that in post peace accord scenario, Taliban should be supported by an effective and practically applicable action plan to bring them back to political streamline, grant their leaders some important key positions in central government and legitimate them as a political party. In order to have positive result and bring about durable peace to the country and the region, we need to take the following steps:
1- Prepare a plan of preferences for a comprehensive ceasefire as an essential foundation to address the issue of a political settlement.
2- 2-Prior to taking Taliban into confidence for a ceasefire, there should be a joint commitment by NATO and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces supreme command to support and strictly comply with the requisition of a credible Taliban ceasefire.
3- To support Taliban that are cooperative in compliance and fulfilling their obligations regarding the ceasefire declaring the legitimacy of their peace loving stands and develop realistic approach for them to decrease their dependence on outside support.
4- In order to avoid from being scattered and dispersed, Taliban are hesitated and reluctant to agree for a ceasefire. So addressing their concerns are vital for a comprehensive political solution. Any third party most particularly China in coordination with US shall take them into confidence that they would never be cheated if the accept the ceasefire.
5- Establish a hybrid International Contact Group to work with Taliban and Afghan government to assist in monitoring the violations of either side in compliance with the conditions and measures that must be endorsed by both side throughout the ceasefire.
6- Launch an Afghan led and Afghan owned National Peace Dialogue to address all the root causes of the conflict, including extreme and most unwanted step to be taken, that is setting up a transitional and interim government though.
7- For a post peace agreement era, it is essential to establish a high-level independent and fully authorized group of political and economic experts having the capabilities and economic resources to works in deliberations with the other relevant organizations to identify and prioritize the zones’ and areas’ legitimacy for launching reconstruction projects in war ravaged provinces.
8- Reward the Taliban second grade leaders who live in the practically prove their commitment to ceasefire and peace deal by immediate reconstruction projects. In addition, this category of Taliban should be provided all support to be reintegrated in their societies with dignity and honor.
We believe that the peace deal has a fair chance of success, but we can not be totally confident about it. Hence, the relevant parities must work on although less attractive but acceptable alternative. Most probably be at least considerably less attractive than a negotiated settlement.
In conclusion, the world community must reiterate commitment to help the people of Afghanistan find their path towards peace, security and prosperity. We as afghans categorically state that a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is a cornerstone for the stability and development of the entire region and the whole world at large. We also underline the significance of economic cooperation between Afghanistan and neighboring countries, and state that the regional economic cooperation and connectivity projects will bring concrete benefits to the people of Afghanistan and reinforce current peace efforts.
Abdul Wahid Wahid