Are peace talks possible with Taliban?

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  • Divine poetic justice?

It’s a non-starter and a stalemate ab initio. A lot of fanfare over nothing. Here’s why: A letter published openly by Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, asking for peace talks with Trump administration through the kind offices of “peace-loving congressmen” and “American people”.

Whereas US wants the peace talks, if any, to be led by Afghan government — the Taliban however are not willing to engage with the Afghan government without the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil. In their letter the Taliban have stated statistics of US and allied forces causalities and makes a mention of support from international community presumably referring to Iran and Russia.

In a recent news report secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has shown willingness of US administration to engage in peace talks with the “moderates” within Taliban ranks. He also hinted at their inclusion in Kabul government. In an earlier unannounced visit to Afghanistan in 2017, Tillerson had said, “There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever,” Tillerson said. “So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government. There’s a place for them in the government if they’re ready to come renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan.”

Moderate voices not fighting forever? A new definition of moderates by any standards!

If US and Afghanistan really want peace in Afghanistan US will be open to having talks with Taliban on one to one basis

Ashraf Ghani jumped in soon after a few days with the Taliban’s overture offering a model to move ahead with peace talks with them. He suggested truce and once in place, Taliban will be recognised as a political party enabling them to contest elections and thereby participate in nation-building. Then he put the foot in his mouth by demanding that Taliban must first recognise the Afghan government and the constitution officially. Considering that the major chunk of land is under Taliban control, considering that for 16 years Afghan government, US and the allied forces have miserably failed to defeat the Taliban puts the latter in a strong position and Ghani himself in no position to make such abortive demands. These non-starters also raise a suspicion of an effort to abort the peace talks in the bud. Clip! Clip!

It is also interesting to see Ashraf Ghani with benevolence of US presumably offering alms to Taliban in Afghanistan at the same time aiming to place Pakistan on list of terror funding nations. (In spite of suffering heavily in WoT) Does this mean these organisations can become part of government only once they have killed enough people, raged enough war and caused enough headaches? One does learn so many new things every day.

Offering more treats to Taliban, Ghani offered passports for Taliban members, their very own office in Kabul (colour of walls not yet decided) and removal of names of prominent commanders from international terrorist blacklist and helping their families to settle down. How lucky. They just had to show they are truly lethal!

Following in footsteps of a steep rise in attacks, the offer by Ghani is a desperate attempt to save the losing space on ground. If only it was not steeped in arrogance and full of non-starters. “According to UN figures, a rise in the number of undiscriminating attacks last year resulted in more than 10,000 civilian casualties – 3,438 people killed and 7,015 injured. Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN envoy to Afghanistan, said: “These chilling figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children.” (Feb 28, 2017)

There are conflicting opinions on the letter and what it conveys. “The Taliban have refused talks with the government of Afghanistan. To legitimise that position, they are putting it out that they are open to talks with the US,” said Semple, who is now a professor at Queen’s University Belfast. “The letter is not conveying a serious proposal, but is an attempt to provide cover for a hardline position (with which I suspect most Taliban in Qatar disagree).” (The Guardian, Feb. 14, 2018)

However, no harm in taking the offer at face value. Why not?

Why Ashraf Ghani throws a spanner when the process has not even started is anybody’s guess. The reason may lie in the fact that he knows that without US his government will fall. The Taliban knows this. The US knows this. Why should then Taliban speak to The Irrelevant?

If US and Afghanistan really want peace in Afghanistan US will be open to having talks with Taliban on one to one basis. If they want peace. Why the pretense of awarding an independent role to present Afghan government that it does not have? The United Nations too backs this peace process nicked Kabul Process. So very sweet!

Have the 16 years of Afghanistan war taught the US nothing? Lip service to peace talks will not pay. Role of third party will fail (referring Pakistan) due to Pakistan itself being at war with them on her soil. No other country has the interest (reference Pak-Afghan mutual border) to broker a successful deal. The one untried path is a direct brokering of peace in Afghanistan by US with Taliban. Why not? The creator and the creation finally meeting for a drawdown. What divine poetic justice!

Pakistan Today

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