Why Should the Taliban Peacefully Negotiate with the Afghan Government?

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Taliban fighters during a training in Faryab Province.

The Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire on Eid with the government of Afghanistan. The halt of hostilities came when President Ashraf Ghani first announced an eight-day ceasefire unilaterally. The government ceasefire came when a large number of Ulema gathered in Kabul to declare and nullify the ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan, and put an end to the prolonged conflict. Further, the Afghan National and Defense Forces were in a defensive mode throughout the country during the ceasefire.

President Ghani said that “this ceasefire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not winning the hearts and minds but further alienating Afghan people from their cause”.  However, the government of Afghanistan excluded the international militant organizations specifically, IS-K from the eight-day ceasefire.

On the Taliban side, they instructed their fighters to terminate their offensive operations against internal opponents and advised to continue attacking the foreign forces as their leadership ordered in a statement that the “foreign occupiers are all excepted; continue the offensive against them whenever and wherever you see them”. Except for the three days of Eid Al-Fitr that the Taliban fighters peacefully entered the capital cities in most provinces. The Taliban re-started their insurgent operations against the government, despite the continuation of ceasefire by the Afghan government.

The article explains why the Taliban reciprocate the temporary ceasefire, and explains the reasons why the Taliban may enter into peace negotiation with the Afghan Government.  

First and foremost, the Taliban is fragmented after the death of its second leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour which was killed by the  US drone in Balochistan of Pakistan. Since then the Taliban has been scattered and sub-groups have been created within the Taliban movement such as the Sacrifice Front and the Mullah Rasoul group. This fragmentation compelled Taliban to open a channel for peace talks with the government of Afghanistan. As a result, the Taliban designed impermanent truce after Afghan government called for an eight-day ceasefire.

Second, the Taliban has been fighting against the government of Afghanistan and its international allies for the past seventeen years. Both sides are exhausted of continued fighting that not only incurred bloodshed on both sides but also caused a high rate of civilian casualties, each year more than eight thousand civilian dies because of the Taliban insurgent attacks. With continued fighting, the Taliban believes that the vast majority of Afghans could possibly accuse them and hold them responsible for not accepting President Ghani’s olive branch offer.

Third, the other reason for the peace with the Afghan government could possibly be that the Taliban lacks strong fighters and most of their fighters are involved in the drug trafficking in different parts of the country and are not accepting the commands of high Taliban officials. Likewise, the battlefield commanders are also divided, each wants to benefit its own circle rather than a central authority of the Taliban. Moreover, different Taliban groups have developed close links with Russia, Iran,  and other regional countries for the support. Pakistan slowly lost its leverage over the Taliban as a consequence of its own puzzling environment.

Four, more than 2,000 Ulema gathered in Kabul to renounce and proclaim a clerical fatwa against the continuous bloodshed in Afghanistan. They called upon Taliban to accept government peace offer. The Ulema had a strong impact on Taliban to come to a ceasefire and then continue negotiating with President Ghani because historically Ulema has played a significant role in Afghanistan’s politics. President Ghani welcomed the Ulema’s decision for ceasefire and promised to accept all conditions of the Taliban. The Taliban’s attack on Afghan clerics when they assembled to announce a verdict against civilian casualties and military personnel further exacerbate the Taliban’s position.

Fifth, the Taliban felt the pressure when the Afghan government agreed with the Pakistani government to have intelligence liaison in order to check the terrorist hideout in both countries and verify the accuracy of information because since 2001 there had been allegation that Pakistan supports the Taliban inside Afghanistan, Afghan government supports the Tehrik-e-Taliban in Pakistan. 

Finally, the Taliban demands to talk directly with the US that toppled their repressive regime in 2001. However, considering that the NATO member states also supported the US in ¥pling of the Taliban regime, the EU member states could not be sidelined from the negotiation. Therefore, if the Taliban wants to talk with the US, they also need to talk with EU members.  The involvement of too many actors in the peace process of Afghanistan will further worsen the situation for the Taliban. The Taliban will be better off only talk with the Afghan government that has the full support of all international community.   

Ihsanullah Omarkhail has worked as a consultant and political activist. He holds an MPhil degree in the field of international relations from Zhejiang University, China. He tweets @Ihsanullah_Om

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