Afghan Perspectives on the US-Taliban Peace Deal
Afghans are happy this week. They can leave their houses for seven days without the fear of an airstrike or a bomb attack. Since 2001, they have seen only two instances where the fighting has stopped even for a brief period of time.
Afghanistan’s Seven Day Test Period of Reduction in Violence
Three days ago on Friday, the Afghan and the US forces, and the Taliban agreed to a period of reduction in violence. The reduction in hostilities is aimed at paving way for signing a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban.
Announcing the period of reduction in violence, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set successful implementation of reduction in violence as a precondition for a peace deal with the Taliban. The Taliban also agreed to the conditions. The spokesperson for the insurgent group said the two sides will invite senior representatives to sign the deal on February 29.
Trump: It’s ‘Time to Come Home’
Commenting on the imminent deal, Trump said that it is “time to come home. They want to stop. You know, they’ve been fighting a long time. They’re tough people. We’re tough people. But after 19 years, that’s a long time.”
It seems the US and the Taliban are desperate to sign a deal. Moreover, the two sides are willing to make compromises towards that end. But many wonder what happens after the deadline ends on February 29, and the two sides sign a deal? What guarantees do US have that the Taliban will not resume to violence once the deal is signed?
The analysts argue that the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan may allow the US to declare itself free of the commitments in the country but it will not be successful in securing peace in the war-torn country. It also seems unlikely that the country will quickly see any domestic compromises and agreements that will be acceptable to all Afghans.
The Difficulty of Achieving Peace in Afghanistan
Given the lack of consensus among how to move forward in towards a political settlement in the post-US troop withdrawal Afghanistan, the country is likely to remain divided. Peace in post-peace deal Afghanistan is likely to be a journey spanning decades as the country’s political institutions are likely to take a long time to develop capabilities to solve conflicts in a political manner.
Immediately after the US-Taliban deal, Afghanistan will brace for an intra-Afghan dialogue amongst various stakeholders: the Taliban, the political leadership and the country’s security forces. The dialogue will revolve around developing a consensus among Afghan stakeholders to agree towards securing a political solution.
But there are a lot of challenges. The recently-declared results by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) have been challenged by political parties. The IEC said that the incumbent president Ashraf Ghani secured 50.6 per cent of the total votes and emerged victorious in the elections that were held last year. His main rival, Abdullah Abdullah rejected the results calling them biased complicating the political deadlock further. Abdullah even said that he, with help from allies, will form his own government at the center.
Taliban are Poised for a Re-entrance to Afghan Politics
But in post-deal Afghanistan, these are not the only political players. The Taliban will also vie to increase its political clout in the country. And given the insurgent group’s reluctance to negotiate with Ghani government in the past, it seems highly likely that they will seek re-elections. Afghanistan is already divided along ethnic, geographic and political lines with disputes usually settled through violent solutions. And with the US exit and Taliban’s inclusion in to the country’s politics, the situation is expected to exacerbate further.
For Afghans the US-Taliban deal symbolizes a glimmer of peace, but the inter-Afghan negotiations that come after will take a long time before any meaningful compromise can be reached among the domestic stakeholders.