Does intra-Afghan talks bring lasting peace in Afghanistan?

Does intra-Afghan talks bring lasting peace in Afghanistan?

The road ahead of Afghan peace process appears to be bloomy and complex though main obstacle against start of intra-Afghan talks was removed with President Ghani, under US pressure and Taliban’s resistance, ordered the release of 400 Taliban notorious prisoners yesterday, August 10.

On Monday, August 10, Afghanistan’s state-run television, RTA World, confirmed that the intra-Afghan negotiations with the Taliban will be held on August 16. The progress comes after years of direct talks between the US and the Taliban that led to US-Taliban peace deal. In November of 2019, the Afghan government swapped three members of Haqqani’s Network, including Anas Haqqani who was sentenced to death, with two foreign hostages kept by the Taliban. Under the US-Taliban peace deal, the Afghan government has released 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for 1,000 Afghan forces kept by the Taliban.

Suspects remain high about peace process  

Some political commentators are of opinion that the Taliban will sit across negotiating table with the government but the process will not bring about peace in Afghanistan. “The Taliban are seeing Afghanistan as Mullah Mohammad Omar’s conquered land and want to conquer it again. They will offer transfer of [political] power and Bayʿah,” says Ferdaws Kawish, a Kabul based journalist. According to him, the Taliban are preparing themselves for a military victory. He predicted that the group’s leadership might propose forming an interim administration in return for ceasefire.

Abbas Farasoo, who is a researcher on Afghanistan at the Deakin University of Australia, believes that Afghanistan has a long way to peace. The Taliban have not declared a clear stance on making peace in Afghanistan, according to Mr. Farasoo. “We see the Taliban have increased their military attacks in different areas, particularly in the north [of Afghanistan]. It suggests that the Taliban are willing to force the government and political parties to concede to their demands,” he argued, adding that the Loya Jirga decision has not paved the ground for peace in Afghanistan.

Regarding impact of the peace consultative Loya Jirga, Farasoo thinks that it has boosted the government’s position in upcoming peace talks with the Taliban. According to him, the Taliban’s increased violence despite Afghan political parties called for ceasefire in meeting with representatives of the militant group in Moscow has mobilized them behind President Ghani as they all—except Gulbuddin Hekmatyar—expressed support for resolution of the assembly. “This can place the government in a better bargaining position,” he noted, bounding durability of the would-be consensus to the leadership of Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, Chairperson of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

Since start of the US-Taliban talks, particularly after prisoner swap process was kicked off between the government and the Taliban, ordinary Afghans express criticisms over continuous compromises against the militant group and described it as giving ransom to the Taliban. Three weeks ago, social media users launched a hashtag campaign titled “StopAppeasingTaliban” on twitter to voice against continuous government setbacks in peace talks with the Taliban.

Mohammad Taqi Munaqebi, a university lecturer, describes the ongoing peace process as “appeasing the Taliban” that will not lead to peace in Afghanistan. “We will see that this process will not result in ending the war and a sustainable real peace. If it was for bringing about a permanent and sustainable peace, the two sides need to take some steps for confidence building. Currently, it’s only the government executing one-sided pre-requisites and appease the Taliban under pressure,” he argued. The Loya Jirga does not have legal authority for making decision on releasing notorious Taliban prisoners, Munaqebi asserted.

Another aspects of the peace process which are highlighted as forgotten elements is representation of the war victims in peace talks and war crimes committed by the Taliban prisoners. Addressing the US, the Taliban, and the Afghan government in a letter issued on March 02, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) raised questions about victim’s access to information, due process of prisoners’ release, and verification of the prisoners. The AIHRC has expressed repeated complaints, saying the parties do not answer questions raised related to peace dealings.

Describing the government’s ignorance and that of the international community regarding the prisoner releases as “lamentable” the AIHRC Chairperson, Shahrzad Akbar, warned on Facebook last Friday, on August 07, that unconditional release of Taliban prisoners will have grave consequences.

Former AIHRC Chairperson, Sima Samar, wrote on her twitter last night, August 10, that the forty-year long war victims are almost forgotten. She warned that continuation of such behavior will fail Afghanistan to achieve a sustainable peace.

Afghan government’s repeated setbacks against Taliban demand and militant group’s inflexibility shown so far have led to a speculation about future of the country. Some say the Taliban are preparing to take lose-lose bargaining position in coming peace talks to be held between the Afghan government and the Taliban on August 16, in Doha, the Qatari capital.