Talks between Taliban delegation and the current Afghan government began, after being delayed for a long time, in the capital of Doha on September 11, 2020.
Taliban agreed to talk to the government of Afghanistan only when the US repeatedly sent envoys and when the US agreed to two of the Taliban’s demands. Firstly, the Taliban demanded to call back the military troops from Afghanistan. In those negotiations, the US agreed to gradually withdraw its troops from the land of Afghanistan in 14 months. In return to these talks, the Taliban decided not to attack the US troops, international troops and to break agreements and ties with Al Qaeda. The second condition that the Taliban put forward was to release 5000 Taliban men as prisoners that were under the custody of the government. Kabul took ten months to accept the Taliban’s demands finally.
However, these negotiations have to go a long way before it bears fruits and ends the nineteen-year-old war. There are fundamental differences present on what type of government should proceed and on the question of rights. Apart from the two real challenges, it is another question of whether the political agreement on a ceasefire can stand table until progress is made. Taliban agreed to negotiate a truce only after a political deal. However, the human rights bodies, the Afghan government, and the EU focus on the humanitarian aspect first.
For centuries, it has been a struggle for Afghan natives to create a nation out of the diversified population it encompasses. There are religious differences that have reduced the capacity of nation-building. The natives consist of Islam; however, the segregation of Sunni and Shia has created sectarian wars. It accounts for one reason for the rise of the Taliban who follow the Sunni school of thought and are extremists.
During this time, there are hostilities between the country’s government and the Taliban, causing casualties and reducing the trust on both sides of the table, making negotiations even more difficult. Just a few hours before the talks had to begin, tens of Taliban fighters were killed by Afghan military troops in the provinces of Nangahar, Baghlan, Kandahar, and Zabul. According to the Ministry of Defense in Afghanistan, these hostilities continued even after the talks. Moreover, five police officers gave up their lives in this mishap, and four were wounded on Saturday night in Kunduz. Another five police officers were killed in Kapisa province as well. Soon after this, the Afghan government began airstrikes against the Taliban in the Kunduz province. It killed 12 civilians and injured ten more. Forty of the insurgents were killed in this attack. The Taliban stated that the airstrike killed more than the Defense ministry has claimed it had. It almost killed 23 civilians according to the Taliban, and these included women and children as well and injured around 17 civilians.
Recently, after the Eid ul Azha 2020, during which a three-day ceasefire was established successfully, talks for negotiations initiated, but disagreements persist, which disturbs the timing of the negotiations.
Usually, the armed anti-governmental groups oppose early ceasefire as they reimburse the status quo of the government. In contrast to the armed groups, government advocates initiate a truce as soon as possible so that the negotiations are made with fewer compromises. In international politics, examples for both are present. In the 1990s the armistice in El-Salvador was made after there was progress on the political front. However, in 2005 Aceh, Indonesia, the negotiations were made early.
As for the negotiations in Afghanistan, the government has made a group of diverse to talk about talks. Under former intelligence chief Masoom Stanikzai, some governmental officials, members of the opposition political party, and religious representatives work for the negotiations. The Taliban has a 20 members’ group under the leadership of Abdul Hakim, out of which 13 are from the movement’s leadership council that has been working with the US.
The points of negotiations have settled numerous issues, including how to adjust the people from diverse ethnic groups into their political system and to share power.
After the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate got toppled in 2001, the state of Afghanistan was proclaimed as “the Islamic Republic,” one that is united, non-divisive, and independent, under the 2004 constitution. However, Taliban still believe itself to be a legitimate state that has been forced into exile by the US. Therefore, negotiators seem unlikely to accept the notion of Afghanistan being a republic. Albeit the Afghan republic is alleged of electoral malpractice and cheating, it still legitimizes itself based on popular mandate through elections. After the invasion of Kabul in their period of governance, the Taliban formed a two-track governing system into the state structure. (i) Political, military leadership council (ii) an executive bureaucratic body. Both of these bodies object to transfer the leadership system practically, but in actuality they never succeeded in it.
Now in 2020, it is still vague what the Taliban wants for the future of Afghanistan. The Taliban likely wants a theocratic government vis-a-vis Iran, which encompasses Sharia laws in an Islamic political system.
The Islamic system of governance, under the Taliban governance, would also include equal rights for all, including protection of the women’s rights given in the light of the laws of Islam. The girls would be allowed to attend schools. They would work, they will involve in politics. And as judges and lawyers. However, there is a conservative side to it too. Women are not qualified for the job of President or as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. They would be required to travel only with a man’s escort. These kinds of laws, as an interpretation of Shariah law, is considered a restricted and conservative one according to Human Rights Watch. Even yet, one of the well-known Taliban figures, Abdul Ghani Baradar, call these rights of women as equal, indiscriminately and for harmony and peace.
In future, the negotiations might become more complicated. The talks between the US and the Taliban failed many times until it became successful this time. It is complex to try to bring long-term enemies on a table and make them agree on specific points.
There are doubts about whether these negotiations will triumph or not. The peace is possible owing to the push the US is putting on Afghanistan. However, pressure from the US will change after the elections in November, or compositely it is likely to fail due to the post-peace government avoiding imposing it.
Even to bring two enemies on a table to negotiate is an achievement. It will be another mark of achievement for the diverse people of a country to agree on a coordinated system of governance. The political analysts apprehend that the stranded Taliban militants might join some other militant group or the ISIS. Moreover, some suggest that the Pashtun warriors that might seclude from the militancy, would be marginalized by the Afghan Government and the National Guards in the process.
Kaneez Fatima is an MPhil scholar in Sociology and a CSS aspirant. She has her interests in International Politics and Social Institutions. She currently teaches at the Institute of Business Management.