The future of Afghan peace

Afghanistan’s president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, in response to killing of Ayub Gharwal, deputy chief of Paktia Provincial Council, said the Taliban must agree to ceasefire, underlining that a durable peace is what the Afghans and the international community expect from the intra-Afghan negotiations which is underway in Doha, capital of Qatar.

On September 12, Afghanistan’s warring parties finally sat around a table to start the opening ceremony of intra-Afghan talks, in Doha. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairperson of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, who spoke on behalf of the Afghan government, called for a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’.

The opening ceremony of the intra-Afghan talks was attended by foreign diplomats including US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Cavusoglu, addressing audience at the opening ceremony of direct talks between Afghan government and the Taliban, said that a ceasefire should be a priority for war and peace cannot move on parallel move. The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Secretary-General of NATO also called on both sides to put an end to war and bloodshed.

But the Taliban side refrained commenting on ceasefire. Some analysts, whom we talk to in Kabul, believe that the Taliban would not agree to a ceasefire unless they obtain their objectives on peace table.

The Afghan side, however, has been calling for ceasefire.

Amrullah Saleh, First Vice President, while speaking at the death anniversary of Burhanuddin Rabbani, former chairman of High Peace Council, said, “if war continues for 100 more years, then you will come to a point where you have to negotiate under one roof.”

Security officials in the Afghan security sectors, however, often say that Taliban leadership in Doha does not maintain control over Taliban commanders and fighters in the field. Ceasefire is a testament to the Taliban leadership’s control over their fighters, they say.

In October 2019, Hamdullah Moheb, Afghanistan’s national security advisor said, “The government has come to conclusion that the Taliban are not united, they do not have control over war, and there is intelligence suggesting that some of the group’s major commanders have joined ISIS.”

But the Taliban have refused government’s claim. The group agreed to a temporary ceasefire during Eid days.

Dr. Rasoul Talib, a senior adviser to the president and a member of negotiating team, says the government has been calling for a ceasefire since long time to end bloodshed.

Thomas Johnson, author of Taliban’s Narrative, says that without ceasefire, there will be no successful peace talks. “I do not believe that the Taliban would want a complete ceasefire. In my belief, the Taliban have come to understand that their non-negotiable demand for the return of the Islamic Emirate, which requires the rewriting of the constitution and the institutionalization of their radical views based on Sharia Laws, will not be accepted by the people. Therefore, the continuation of their activities is crucial in its efforts to regain control of the country.”

Some analysts however argue that by prolonging violence the Taliban want to take a stronger position in the peace process.

Of late, Asadullah Khalid, acting defense minister, said that Taliban surge of violence was on the rise though a peace talk was underway.

Seeking a ceasefire does not solve problem; the two sides should finalize that there should be no more shooting and violence, says Naeem Wardak, spokesman for the Taliban in Qatar.

The initial phase of peace talks, started on Monday, September 14, is underway. This phase includes developing a specific procedure for negotiating, scheduling, and setting agendas. The contact groups of two sides are negotiating on the procedure and mechanism of negotiations which are yet to come. On Sunday, September 13, the contact groups of two sides met behind closed doors and discussed principles of coming negotiations.

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