Spokesperson for President Ghani, Sediq Sediqi, said today, February 18, that the Afghan government has agreed to “significant reduction in violence”, hoping to achieve a ceasefire. Speaking at a press conference held in Kabul, Mr. Sediqi reiterated on ceasefire as a key demand that could ensure an enduring and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

The statement comes while earlier last month the Afghan government was rejecting Taliban’s offer of reduction in violence and instead insisting on a ceasefire as precondition to a peace talks.

The preliminary agreement of the United States and the Taliban, famous as “reduction in violence”, broke out differences between prominent Afghan politicians, particularly Chief Executive Abdullah and President Ghani.

Senior government officials including Second Vice President Sarwar Danish expressed dissatisfaction with progress in peace talks, saying that reduction in violence did not translate actual demands of the people of Afghanistan.    

As peace talks progressed, a number of other prominent Jihadi leaders supporting Chief Executive Abdullah gathered behind former President Hamid Karzai and expressed optimisms and satisfaction with progress made in US-Taliban talks. Both, Abdullah and Karzai, slammed Ghani over rejection of the agreement and accused him of attempting to sabotage the peace process and monopolizing it.

President Ghani, late Monday, February 17, said the Afghan government negotiation team would go with clear principles and procedures to talk with the Taliban, according to a statement issued by the presidential palace. “President Ghani has already started consultations regarding peace process, its dangers and potential opportunities, and has met with governors at the beginning,” the statement noted.

Stressing on government-led negotiations, the governors have recommended forming a small team of negotiators who should be committed to Afghanistan national values.

Why did the government change position?

“We agreed with the significant reduction in violence in order to make progress and move on the next stages where ceasefire could be discussed as a fundamental issue,” Mr. Sediqi said during his press conference today, February 18, in Kabul. He added that the government would deal with peace issue cautiously and with a deep understanding of the status quo.

At odds to remarks made by caretaker of State Ministry for Peace Affairs, Salam Rahimi, on January 16, 2019, now the ministry says that it welcomes any ‘attempt’ for achieving a sustainable peace and ceasefire in the country. “The Afghan people want peace and the reduction in violence is meaningless for government and people of Afghanistan,” Rahimi had told in a press conference in January.

Assadullah Barakzai, a political expert working with the State Ministry for Peace Affairs, asserted that these attempts must lead to ceasefire and a sustained reduction of violence across the country.

Jafar Mahdavi, a former MP and political analyst, however, believes that under US pressure, the Afghan government has bowed to accept reduction in violence. In return, the US might have promised Ghani to save him another term in future politics of Afghanistan.

A former Taliban member, Sayed Akbar Agha, also says that the government has backed down from its position on ceasefire upon America’s demand.

The state ministry for peace, however, rejected accounts made by Agha and Mahdavi.

Does reduction in violence strategy lead to peace?

The Taliban are widely known for breaking agreements, commitments, and promises. Many anti-Taliban Jihadi commanders recall stories about how Taliban commanders broke agreements they signed at local levels after their military victory was assured.  In late September 1996, the group broke mutual agreements after their fighters captured the capital Kabul.

Raising doubt over Taliban’s commitment to end the war, Sediqi said reduction in violence is a test period to check if Taliban leaders have the ability to end violence and enter in peace process.  

Mahdavi described the reduction in violence as a confidence building measure, saying that it can pave the ground for peace if the Afghan government, US, and the Taliban adhere to the agreement of reduction in violence.

“Indeed reduction in violence is an informal ceasefire. Since the Taliban cannot justify their war named this ceasefire reduction in violence”, said Sayed Akbar Agha.  

Meanwhile Barakzai argues that reduction in violence can lead to peace only when war reduces in all areas – on the battlefields, intelligence, and propagandas. Mr. Barakzai said if the Taliban fail to uphold reduction in violence in one of these areas, confidence cannot be built to sign a peace agreement between the warring parties.

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