The U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has arrived in Kabul after he wrapped up the ninth round of peace talks with the Taliban. Upon his arrival, he showed President Ashraf Ghani the draft of an agreement between the US and the Taliban which is expected to clear the way for a phased US troop withdrawal, as well as the intra-Afghan negotiations. It has been said the Afghan government – which has been shut out of the talks so far as the Taliban refuse to recognize it – has been consistently kept in the loop regarding advances in the dialogue. Now is the time to put final touches on the draft by incorporating the government and Afghans’ perspective and having them on board. However, the downside of all the progress in talks is that they are happening against a backdrop of relentless violence and no let-up in fighting by the Taliban.
The fiercest spell of violence rages on along with advances towards peace. A case in point is the ongoing clashes in Pul-i-Khumri city, Baghlan’s capital, that have resulted in the killing of six civilians and eight security personnel. This recent incident comes right after an attempt of the insurgent group to collapse Kunduz province failed. It is absolutely not the way to go about peace. The group, as provoked by some neighboring countries, believes that upsurge in fighting and violence would win them more privilege in the later intra-Afghan negotiations but it doesn’t think through the repercussions and blowbacks of such actions. Already being frowned upon because of their repressive track record when they were in power, such violence of theirs only reveals their barbaric behavior and lust for power. The militants don’t give attention to what consequences such attacks would have? The attacks and violence come at the cost of civilian lives due to the rebels’ indiscriminate shooting. They should know that such attacks trigger hatred and frustration among the war-weary Afghans, who become fed up with violence. Residents rising in arms against the group and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghan security forces during the ongoing conflict in Baghlan clearly shows their exhaustion with the group. Afghans won’t accept a reemergence of such ferocious and brutal regime and let it be forced upon them.
Now as Khalilzad is here in Kabul, he should share the details of the draft deal between the US and Taliban with all Afghan leaders, including public representatives. Afghans already have little voice in their country’s fate as they have been awaiting the results of the US-Taliban talks, which has so far been happening behind closed doors. Meanwhile, the group has shown no flexibility and change in its deeds in practice so the public should know what the text of the deal contains. This would provide them with a chance that what future holds for them. As for the Taliban, they should realize that violence won’t take them anywhere and that they should find means to show themselves legitimate and eligible to be re-integrated into Afghan society. The situation warrants an immediate ceasefire by the militants – who should take a step forward and show willingness in this regard.