When talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in Doha a week ago, many were hoping for peace for Afghanistan and its people. However, rapprochement between both sides has yet to occur, and the most recent attacks will not make the facilitation of peace any more straightforward.
Talks Have Reached an Impasse Over Basic Issues
One week after the opening of the intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha, the Taliban delegations and the Afghan government are barely making any headway. The talks have stalled on fundamental and basic issues.
For one, the contact groups on both sides – which have to determine the course and framework for the negotiations – have not yet agreed on how the war of the past 19 years should even be described. The Taliban insist on calling it a holy war, a jihad – in an attempt to justify their repugnant attacks that have taken so many lives.
Then there is a dispute over the precise definition and rights of different religions and beliefs in the country moving forward. According to the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, different religious communities, such as the Shiites or the Sunnis, are permitted to have different interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence in order to do justice to the diversity of the various religious and ethnic groups in the country. The Taliban, however, seek to allow only their one strict interpretation of Sharia law when regulating religious matters.
The Taliban-US Deal
The third controversial point is the Doha agreement that the Taliban signed with the US in late February. The Taliban seeks to make it the basis of the intra-Afghan dialogue. In the event that the US concessions, such as the withdrawal of troops, were not facilitated, talks with the government delegation would also lapse.
The talks in Doha were also burdened by an airstrike by Afghan against the Taliban positions this past weekend. The Taliban have refused to agree to a ceasefire, and hence the fighting has continued despite the talks. As a result, the country remains in a state of chaos. A chaos that has caused at least 57 casualties among Afghan soldiers across the country in the past few days alone.
‘Unacceptably High’ Level of Violence in Afghanistan
The US expects further setbacks during the talks, particularly due to the “unacceptably high level” of violence, the Special Envoy for Afghanistan said on Thursday.
Despite the difficulties, the talks represent the best hope for peace in years and result from a February pact between the Taliban and the United States that allows US forces to withdraw in exchange for the Taliban’s promises of terrorism.
The Taliban continue to regard the Afghan government as a puppet of the USA and, to this day, refuse to hold direct talks with it. They also regard their fight against the government troops as justified and see themselves as liberators of the Afghan people from a foreign occupying power.
From 1996 until the US-led intervention in 2001, the extremist terror regime ruled Afghanistan and harbored the Al-Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
It’s Hard – if Not Impossible – to Negotiate With Extremists
The stalling of negotiations, meanwhile, displays what needed to be anticipated: negotiations with extremists are mostly inconceivable if not impossible. With the Afghan government and the US, who have provided the Taliban with a seat at the table on the world stage cognizant of the latter, the question is how many concessions any government is inclined to make in order to establish “peace” with extremists who have caused so much suffering and misery to the country.
Moreover, how reliable would such an agreement be in the first place?
Furthermore, with all foreign troops due to withdraw from Afghanistan by May of 2021, the pressure on the Afghan government will continue to increase – likely to the detriment of the peace talks.