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Editorial: Flexibility in peace talks

Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar asked the local militant groups to join the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. He said that the insurgents groups should choose between the reconciliation drive and military action. During the delivery of AK-47 assault rifles on Wednesday, donated by Russia to the Afghan security forces, Atmar said that the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) agreed to use military power against all those Afghan insurgents who are not ready to renounce violence. Therefore, he termed it a golden opportunity for the Taliban and other militant groups to lay down weapons and become part of the peace dialogue.

He was actually echoing the words of Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. At the fourth meeting of the QCG in Kabul on February 23, the foreign minister said the government would warmly welcome all those militant outfits that want to join the peace drive. According to Rabbani it is an opportunity for militants to put an end to the ongoing conflict. Almost all high-ranking officials are urging the insurgents to stop killing innocent people and become part of the democratic system. Afghan Constitution has not shut doors of peace talks. Thus, the Taliban, Haqqani Network and other militant groups should benefit from this opportunity.

Their failure to take advantage of this opportunity would claim many lives. Through violence the militants cannot achieve their goals. War will inflict severe damage. As the QCG and the Afghan authorities made it clear that insurgents who continue anti-state activities would face military action, the Taliban should take the peace call seriously. Hekmatyar-led Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan had already shown interest. However, the problem is that most of the militant groups are stressing on their conditions. Some of the groups say that they would not become part of the peace process until foreign troops leave the country. Other militant factions are asking for changes in the constitution and administrative structure.

Flexibility in stance is very important for success of the dialogue process. Although, the direct talks between Afghan government and the Taliban had not yet started but it could collapse if the two parties failed to show flexibility. Taliban shall focus on building an environment of trust by keeping aside their demands in the early phase. Similarly, the government should keep the timeline flexible. Engaging and convincing the militant groups is an exhausting process and would take time. However, it does not mean that the government should turn a blind eye to growing insecurity.

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