On, February 28, 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in the Second Kabul Process Conference, presented a new Peace Policy and presented some offers to the Taliban in order to initiate peace talks with the Afghan government. The government’s Peace Policy was widely became supported on national and international level and was covered by media widely.
There were hopes that the Taliban would also give green light to the offers of President Ghani; however, despite passing several weeks, the Taliban yet to express their official view in this regard. But in an indirect look to the circles close to the Taliban, it seems that the Taliban’s response to the new offer of the government is NO.
Some concerns are unanswered in this regard; therefore, the media department of the Center for Strategic and Regional Studies (CSRS) conducted an interview with the Director-General of CSRS, Dr. Abdul Baqi Amin. We kindly invite you to read it here.
First question is that why the Taliban are yet to respond the peace offer of the government that is unprecedented in last 17 years?
The main reason behind this may be that the government neglected the main factor of war, which is the presence of foreign troops in the country, in its offers and it has not got any clarity in this regard. Taliban are against Americans’ presence in this country and tells that they will fight until the presence of Americans continues; however, this issue has been unattended in these offers. I think if there is a timetable for withdrawal of Americans, it would fundamentally pave the way for peace; or, it would be also effective if American make clear that they will present timetable when Taliban come to peace talks and hope for ending the war became emerged.
In my opinion, nowadays Taliban, Afghan government and America understand that no party is able to win the war through war; but the problem is that the involved sides follow policies that do not result in peace and still keep the severity of war. Americans also backed the President’s offers; however, they, practically, insist on war and focus on fighting. Meanwhile, Americans have not specified the deadline of their presence and withdrawal. For the time, they neither talk about the number of their troops neither the date of their withdrawal. Afghan government, then, has not got role in decisions; it backs and applies the decisions taken by the United States.
Mr. Amin! As Taliban are ready to talk with America, why they do not become ready to talk with the Afghan government?
Considering the years-long positions of the Taliban, they have divided this issue into two parts. One: presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan; Two: changes in the system. Their position, to the extent I followed, on the first point is that they tell that America is a side of the war and as Americans have practical presence in Afghanistan, so we want to talk with Americans regarding their presence and/or withdrawal; because the Afghan government has not got the authority to tell Americans to stay here or leave. The view regarding second point is that if Americans specify the deadline and withdraw the country, they “Taliban” will talk to Afghan side regarding the changes in the system. Thus, Taliban had offered talks to American and tell that they want to discuss issues like presence and withdrawal of Americans and exchange of prisoners and similar issues directly to Americans. We, then, will talk about internal issues with Afghan government and other Afghan political sides, the Taliban add.
In my point of view, the recent offers of Afghan government regarding making peace with Taliban are subject to be praised; but as they have some deficiencies, perhaps, most people will be skeptical when it comes to their implementation. I shared these remarks with head of Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) that we would not be able to gain a lot from these offers. As you may have heard, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, after the second meeting of Kabul Process said that peace requires national and social consensus; meaning that President’s word is not our words; and the Chief Executive of Afghanistan has also got the same view. Let me say that if his governmental team does not agree with the President, how his offers will have [positive] results. For that reason, I would like to say that this proposal was before the time and the ground was not facilitated for its acceptance; it may be the cause that the Taliban are yet to show any reaction. A mechanism is needed here where the Taliban, the Afghan government and the entire political parties of the country could agree upon because trust-building is needed before every other task. The main point is to stop this war, not to define the good and bad sides of the issue.
So, in your opinion, how can the initiation of talks be made possible?
It is called deadlock when Taliban say that we do not talk with the Taliban and we talk with American only, so the Taliban have to talk with the government. However, if the Taliban do not talk with the Afghan government, they are, at least, ready to talk with Afghan influential sides, why the Afghan government does not show positive reaction here. There is a strong need for a kind of series of primary talks where the trusted and close individuals of Taliban, Afghan government and other political sides, tribes and parties are present, who, then, will be working of shortening the distance and establishing a roadmap on which the all sides could agree upon. Besides that, there should be a guarantor side which could prevent any side from breaking the promises, as there are chances of explosion from an anti-peace side, and repudiation of the other side regarding talks. Last week, after an explosion in Kabul, America and Afghan President said that they will not talk with Taliban after that. The problem is that the government is not ready to bring such a process to ground. I, personally, proposed these issues to the government, hence, I see problems in the term of “Afghan-owned” from the Afghan government when it comes peace talks.
What problems do you see in the term of “Afghan-owned” when it comes to Peace Talks?
The term of “Afghan-owned peace talks” may have positive aspect as well and it is that we should protect the country from foreigners’ interventions and interferes. However, I think that this term and policy has affected the Peace Talks negatively and is a “barrier” for now. For now, this means that the Afghan government has the initiative and entire control in its hands, the entire initiative is in one hand and it is up to it whether to talk or not. It is a barrier in front of peace. Both Afghan and Taliban are Afghan sides here. It is a good thing for Afghans to have the initiative of this process in their control and prevent foreigners’ interventions; so, in this point, Afghan national and elite neutral and influential personalities that are committed to national interests should be given opportunities to play their role in this part, not that everything should be done through government. It is almost impossible for two adversary sides to have effective talks without a mediator.
One the other hand, the positions of the President also change fatly. A few days before the Kabul Process, Afghan President said that he will not make peace with Taliban after that; however, a few days later, in the Kabul Process, he proposed such generous offers. President will lose his trust when he changes positions in big issues of the country. If something happens tomorrow and President says that he does not want to advance peace talks, then, what will happen? Therefore, a neutral side should become to ground to prevent double standards. Nowadays, there is an atmosphere of mistrust regarding positions of President that he might once again boycott the Peace Talks.
Another barrier, in my point of view, is that the fancy of translating the peace talks into Taliban surrender should be removed. There is a fear that the fancy of that America and Afghan government want the Taliban to put their weapons down and change their armed struggle into political struggle. It is something that the Taliban will never accept and, it is in this point, the government should bring the main issue to the negotiation table.
Before that, Afghan government had focused on Pakistan for peace; now, Pakistan has backed the Afghan government new peace proposal; what do you think, to what extent Pakistan will be able to play a role in it?
The truth is that peace is in benefit of all. If Pakistan thinks straight, it would have to back peace in Afghanistan. Stability in Afghanistan is stability in Pakistan and today, stability is linked closely to development. Pakistan needs peace in Afghanistan as much as it needs it in its own country; however, unfortunately, policies are not in favor of both countries as well as in of the region. Pakistan plays double-standard; at first, it provided ground for Americans and subdued the Taliban; but, in the deep, it thinks that America’s presence is not in its interest and so does not want it. Also, it does not want Indian dominance in the region; so it plays the game the way that receives aid from America and meanwhile bring America’s presence under question and also prevents India’s sway as well.
So, what should Afghanistan do with such policies of regional countries?
There are a handful of activities on regional level that could be helpful in peace-making. First, Afghanistan needs to stay neutral between superpowers, regional and international blocks. For example, it should keep balance between China, America, Russia, India and other countries, not only like as it do it now. It keeps America’s side and does not take care of regional balance. This job is not in benefit of Afghanistan. Neighbors’ legal and political sensitivities should be taken care as well. Nowadays, Afghanistan needs Pakistan and Pakistan needs Afghanistan; thus, trust-building is needed. Instead of lobbying against each other, they should work on mutual goals and towards eliminating the barriers. For the time, the America’s strategy that insists on India’s role in Afghanistan, is not in benefit of Afghanistan at all because it arises Pakistan’s sensitivity and cause Afghanistan to enter a proxy war. It is obvious that America’s priority will be controlling Russian, China and other countries, but it is not Afghanistan’s priority. Afghans needs to stay neutral and they should not become scarified by China, Russia and America’s rivalries. Afghanistan should try to become benefited from their facilities by staying neutral. Afghanistan has got an important geopolitical location and it should be profitable for us instead of being disadvantageous.