Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that the US and Taliban must reach a ceasefire and announced that the country is preparing for a draw down of American troop. The presence of US troops provides leverage for the US and the Afghan government, while instability and violence provides leverage for the Taliban in the ongoing peace talks.

Ghani: We Are Ready For The US Troop Reduction

Speaking Thursday in Davos, Switzerland, Ghani said he had communicated to US President Donald Trump that Afghanistan is ready for more American troops to leave, seeing as Trump has frequently expressed his anger over the cost of the war in Afghanistan on shoulders of the US taxpayers.

The Afghan government has repeatedly demanded a ceasefire as a part of the deal between the United States and the Taliban, as the two sides negotiate an end the 18-year long insurgency in the country. Previously, the Taliban had announced “reduction of violence” in the country in exchange of US troop draw down from the turbulent nation where 12,000 US troops are currently deployed.

Taliban Double Talk

The Associated Press reported that the Taliban have been frustrated by additional American demands in peace talks, citing a commentary published on their website. Specifically, the Taliban claim the talks were stalled over the clarification of the ambiguous term of “reduction of violence,” as the Taliban see violence as their major leverage in peace talks. Ghani lashed out the Taliban in Davos, claiming that Taliban representatives “were getting their fourth and fifth and they were enjoying themselves.” The Taliban called Ghani’s remarks “irresponsible.”

It has been weeks since US diplomats and Taliban representatives met to discuss an agreement under which the Taliban stop targeting US troops and Afghan cities. In return the US promises to cut troop levels from the country, while the Taliban has promised to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a launchpad for attacks on the US and its allies, as well as to begin peace talks with the Afghan government and other Afghan politicians.

The Afghan and American perspective on the Taliban are not the same

The Afghan and American perspective on the Taliban are not the same. Ghani’s first running mate in Afghanistan’s presidential election last September Amrullah Saleh recently said during a conference that the US and the Taliban “might end the war between the U.S. and the Taliban, but it is impossible for those negotiations to end the Taliban’s war with the Afghan nation.”

“Talks are seen as a means to either assure continuity of imbalanced political power or a power grab, [in addition as] a reason for pursuing more power or aiming for a political end to war,” said Omar Samad, Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council. “We should avoid zero-sum or lop-sided solutions.”

A recent survey by The American Institute of War and Peace Studies show that 80 percent of Afghans surveyed said a peace settlement was the only solution to the fighting, while 20 percent others said a military solution was possible. The survey also found that 46 percent of Afghans surveyed wanted US and NATO troops out of the country once a deal is signed, while 33 percent of them wanted them to stay.

The Potential Peace Deal

The offer of reduction of violence by the Taliban was seen as a major step forward to signing a deal between the United States and the Taliban amid the new push of the peace talks. In September of 2019, President Trump called off peace talks with the Taliban after an American soldier was killed in a Taliban attack. Then, during his Thanksgiving visit to Kabul, Trump once again announced the resumption of talks between the US and the Taliban to end America’s longest war abroad.

The direct peace talks of the U.S. with the Taliban have now dragged on nearly for two years with simultaneously widespread combat across the country, where a record number of Afghan civilians, government forces and Taliban fighters have been killed in addition to American and US-led troops.

“A real peace deal either has a clear winner and loser or is the results of negotiations and talks that end up with a win-win settlement,” said Samad, who is also the former Afghan ambassador to France. “The military stalemate and other geopolitical and strategic considerations necessitate a process involving multiple parties engaging in talks and consultations leading up to inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations and a political settlement.”

As the peace talks continue in Doha, Qatar, Afghan politics continues to fall apart over the process. In Davos, Ghani challenged his partner in the unity government, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and former President Hamid Karzai to come up with a paper on the peace process. In Kabul, Abdullah Abdullah and Hamid Karzai organized a gathering included major influential politicians

The gathering of Afghan politicians happened without the presence of the Afghan government. The politicians accuse Ghani of centralizing power and controlling peace negotiations, while the government denounces these critics as opportunists.

Even Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, a partner of Ghani in the national unity government, said during a cabinet meeting that one person cannot centralize the peace process. He also indicated that the reduction of violence by the Taliban side might be enough for the start of peace talks between the government and the Taliban. President Ashraf Ghani rejected the reduction of violence.

“The result [of U.S.-Taliban talks over the reduction of violence] might be better or worse, but it will not be meaningless,” said Barnett Rubin, director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University. “This is only a transitional agreement to create conditions for intra-Afghan negotiations including the government, in which a comprehensive ceasefire should be at the top of the agenda.”

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