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Editorial: Flagging peace talks

With intra-Afghan talks stuck on technicalities in Doha, the level of violence across Afghanistan is terrifically high. Attacks by the warring sides have increased, with civilians being the victims of crossfires and bombings. Amid all this, there are constant calls for a ceasefire from various stakeholders of Afghanistan but to no avail. Meanwhile, the US representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, admits that the current levels of violence in Afghanistan are too high by any stretch of the imagination. However, what good does acknowledgment do to the Afghan masses who endure the violence on a daily basis? This is on top of the fact that the Taliban are returning to the battlefield and fighting against the Afghan government – a bizarre gambit given the ongoing talks. Confidential research released by the Foreign Policy earlier this month showed that the majority of the Taliban prisoners released under the US-Taliban peace deal signed last February are taking up arms to fight Afghan forces and continue their “jihad” to overthrow the Afghan government and replace it with an Islamic Emirate. This was also recently confirmed by the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNC) Chairman Abdullah Abdullah.

On the other hand, the inflammatory and derogatory remarks by the sides are stoking the embers of hate once again. The Taliban on Tuesday accused President Ashraf Ghani’s deputies of anti-peace rhetoric, saying these faces were against peace since day one. A statement from the group came after the deputies said that the Taliban brought a disgrace to the Afghan people, women and their culture, adding their regime was similar to a dictatorship. At this juncture, it seems the warring sides are engaged in fighting on the battlefield, as well as in the war of words. This situation renders the peace talks useless and hopeless. If there are peace talks ongoing, why is there so much resentful agitation around? All these developments bring under question the whole peace process and its purpose. A letter from some Wolesi Jirga members had earlier asked US Congress to grill Khalilzad about some of their key concerns and issues concerning the peace process ahead of Khalilzad’s debriefing at the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee at the House. This is the right move because if public representatives don’t raise the voices of Afghan masses and share their concerns, then who else would? Of the rightly posed questions, one asked that “Pakistan has a proven record of training terrorists and sending them to Afghanistan and the world, is there any assurance that Pakistan will let peace prevail in Afghanistan?” Although a part of the letter was brought up for discussion and Khalilzad was grilled about them, a major portion remained. The question about Pakistan needs proper heed and should be addressed by the Americans because its common knowledge now that the country is among the key drivers of war in Afghanistan. The US has made a deal with the Taliban for its own interests as the Afghan people haven’t benefitted a tiny bit. Considering the circumstances, the international partners, especially the US, should press the Taliban to announce a truce and meet the Afghan people’s foremost demand for peace talks. Otherwise, peace talks and violence going hand in hand is the worst-case scenario as peace continues to elude Afghans, whose casualties are rising with each passing day rather than decreasing.

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