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No letup in violence hampers peace parleys

Feb 03, 2020 - 20:18
Election Articles

In his recent trip to Afghanistaninfo-icon, United States Special Envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Process Zalmay Khalilzad revealed no progress has been made during their recent talks with the Talibaninfo-icon due to surge in violence on the part of the Taliban in the war-torn country.

The surge in violence undermines the legitimacy of the Taliban negotiating team in Qatar, with further demands piling for a long-term guarantee of security, the Taliban present at the talks seem to show their lack of control over the insurgency as a whole.

This change might also be indicative of the fact that the supporters of the Taliban may be disagreeing with the process.

Beyond speculation, what does seem to be certain is that the talks between the US and the Taliban would not be concluded as swiftly or timely as initially perceived. The delay in outcome has created room for the Afghan political elite to finalize their approach towards the second and more national phase of negotiations with the Taliban. This might be an especially ripe time for the Afghan community to own the negotiation process and exploit the urgency of the Taliban to have some political gain from the Qatar process.


Multiple political and civil bodies, representing different national and international interests, have proposed to lead and define a possible action plan such a second phase. The government's recent announcement of a Minister for Peace Mr. Abdul Salam Rahimi represents its own participation in the race of being at the helm of such a process. With the political tensions at a high due to the disputed and non-finalized presidential election results paired with the Taliban refusing to negotiate directly with the current Afghan regime, the government would have to realize that only an inclusive broad approach would work. Rivals of President Ashraf Ghani should also accept that any process without the President would lack legitimacy. All parties would have to agree on a mandate as equals without anyone side holding the right to VETO a majority consensus. Internal dialogue and a unified mandate would be essential to any hopes of bringing the Taliban to a national negotiating table. This would be achieved through designing a large blueprint, before and during the internal dialogue, of what the negotiating process would look like and deciding on what would inform such decisions.

While the argument that Afghanistan’s unique demographic and political setup requires a tailored approach to a political settlement, one that cannot be imported, might hold true. It is however paramount that the wheel not be reinvented. Important questions such as that of composition and size of negotiating teams should not be answered through hit and trial methods. Even if foreign experiences are rejected, there seems to be a plethora of Afghan talks that have produced varying results in the past fifty years. Though the whole decision-making matrix does not have to be structured around past experiences fed by academic research, it should form a fundamental part of the process. Among other realities needed to be accepted, an important reality would be that of newer political figures within the country. The process would only be successful if it brings into its fold the newer prominent parties and figures within the Afghan political spectrum. Such new political elites by virtue of having influence and human capital can spoil the peace process if ignored. Despite there being an incentive to make the process as inclusive as possible, academic research and studies could help identify the right makeup of a potential Afghan peace council. As the common wisdom goes, nations that refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.

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Author’s brief introduction

Obaidullah Baheer is a postgraduate of International Relations from the UNSW. He is a scholar of peace and counter insurgency. He can be reached at

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