Peace negotiations and achievements

Create: 07/25/2015 - 14:09

The first direct peace parleys in Islamabad on Jul 7 reflects the Afghan government’s seriousness about the reconciliation dialogue. The legitimacy of official statements that insurgent attacks are aimed to give the Taliban leverage during the talks has also been proven beyond doubt.
In the past, the militant movement had constantly refused to enter dialogue with the government, while showing its willingness for talks with the United States. However, now they have initiated meetings with government representatives. By changing their tack, the Taliban have formally recognised the incumbent government and have realised the reality that a final decision has to be taken by Kabul.
Apparently, there are two opinions about the stepped-up attacks this fighting season: One objective is to topple the government and replace it with a Taliban set-up. Another real aim of the intensifying assaults is to solidify the rebels’ bargaining position during the dialogue.
Looking at the Murree meeting, one can safely assume the Taliban do not have the capability to overthrow the present dispensation. Instead their increasing activities seek to enable the militants to attain as much as possible from the negotiations. But now that the group has suffered significant reverses on the battlefield, this objective cannot be realised easily. The most important issue is durable peace and security in Afghanistan.
Decisions at Murree meeting:
• According to a report on the BBC Urdu website, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says in a statement that the Islamic Emirate may change its policies from time to time;
• The statement adds the Taliban’s political office in Qatar is empowered to take independent decisions. Based on Islamic principles, members of the office can talk to Afghan and foreign individuals and groups;
• The process of dialogue will continue, with both sides likely to meet after the Eid festival. However, the venue and date will be decided later on.
Previously, the most fundamental question was authorized Taliban representatives’ participation in the talks. The government delegation says emissaries of the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network took part in the meeting. At the same time, there have been suggestions that Taliban’s Qatar office members should have been part of the negotiations.
But the Afghan Islamic Press claims Qari Din Mohammad Hanif and Mullah Abbas represented the Taliban’s political bureau in Doha at the Islamabad meeting. Based on this report, we can say that all Taliban factions were represented. This signifies Taliban’s unanimity on dialogue with the Afghan government.
Deputy Foreign Minister Hikmat Khalil Karzai says the Taliban delegates were led by Mullah Mansoor, who stoutly supported the meeting. At a recent news conference, Karzai referred to an important point: The Taliban’s Qatar office had been opened with the consent of the movement’s leadership and the Murree talks were greenlighted by the Doha bureau.
What is significant is that the two sides had their first-ever face-to-face sit-in, in which American and Chinese representatives also took part as observers. The negotiators’ willingness to meet again is a marker of their seriousness about an amicable settlement. 
Impact on war front:
The launch of talks will have a direct effect on Taliban’s fighting position. The Taliban commanders fighting against Afghan security forces are likely to be face with an unknown fate. Since they are up against inhabitants of certain areas, such commanders will face problems at the regional level. One cannot say what the future holds in store for them.
The effect on the war fronts could have two results: One, during the past 13 years of fighting against the government, the Taliban have suffered life and material losses in addition to creating problems from themselves in areas where they are living. Tired of war, the militants no longer have the ability to bring down the present system.
Mindful of losing many fighters on a daily basis, Taliban leaders have come to the negotiating table with the government. The surrender of regional commanders and combatants to the government has spurred optimism about the success of the peace process.
Two, a certain Taliban faction that cites ideological reasons for its armed struggle against the government has divided the word into two parts -- black and white. This group will fight on for achieving its objectives as long as it has the required resources. Now that the Taliban have entered peace parleys, this faction will seek its survival in war. 
With this in mind, some Taliban fighters could join other rebel outfits, most probably Daesh, which is also known as Islamic States. The Middle Eastern group has been active for quite some time in several parts of Afghanistan. But this likelihood offers no cause for concern, in that conditions in Afghanistan are not yet favourable for Daesh, which could be eliminated if the peace talks yield the desired result.
Regional & global support:
In recent months, the government has been trying to forge regional and international consensus on the need for support the Afghan-led reconciliation drive. This campaign was stepped up in the wake of President Ashraf Ghani’s swing through the region, which took him to Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan and India.
The president sought concrete cooperation from his host in promoting the peace process. Although these countries promised all-out support, doubts about their (Pakistan’s) intentions lingered on. But the Murree meeting conclusively proved that regional consensus has been reached on supporting reconciliation and stability in Afghanistan.
Additionally, the participation of observers from the US and China in the Murree meeting also pointed to global and regional consensus. Their presence is demonstrative of the fact that the two nations will push the process in the first phase. In the second, the world will lend its weight to Afghan peace efforts.
The talks in Islamabad happened after the Taliban had emphatically denied the group was under Pakistan’s influence. But now the presence of Taliban leaders in the neighbouring country has been confirmed. To a large extent, they are under the thumb of Pakistan spy service, ISI.  It was Pakistan that facilitated the meeting and hence the validity of President Ghani’s statement that Kabul should make peace with Islamabad before reaching out to the Taliban leadership.
Obviously, the Islamabad talks were preliminary. No doubt, initial dialogue may not produce dramatic outcomes, but it can go a long way in shaping perceptions. There is optimism about a ceasefire now that the two sides have agreed to meet again in a fortnight. The truce may be followed by concrete progress.
The meetings and talks will hopefully transform into a meaningful peace process, which could be sped up through more contacts. Unity among the Afghans is vital to peace, nonetheless. Within Afghanistan, some circles are trying to create impediments to reconciliation. They are doing so to further their personal interests.
In the given situation, national interest must be preferred to petty personal gains. Each Afghan will have to take concrete steps to prevent the bloodshed in their homeland. Without cooperation from the whole nation, peace will continue to elude the country.
The writer’s views do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s policy.