On February 29, the United States unilaterally signed a peace agreement with the Taliban. Under this agreement, the United States will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and Taliban will sever ties with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations and will not allow any terror activities against the United States and its allies from this region. Also, as part of this agreement, the intra-Afghan dialogue and ceasefire discussions are supposed to follow after the release of 5000 Taliban prisoners by the Afghan Government and the release of 1000 Afghan prisoners by Taliban. So far, over 4000 Taliban prisoners have been freed by the Afghan Government and the impasse on release of the rest of Taliban has created more tension and increased violence by both parties.
Both the significance and the complexity of the intra-Afghan dialogue will have a defining impact towards a viable peace providing that all participants and the decision makers consider the national interest of the Afghan people as the top priority.
I have tried to capture views/sentiments of several Afghans (from inside and outside Afghanistan) who have appeared on an Afghan television as guest panelists regarding peace. I hope this information will be useful for the readers. I have summarized/categorized the sentiments in Italics.
- Regarding Peace:
- Peace is the top priority of the Afghan people. This is a good opportunity for peace and the Afghans will find its way out of the current situation and become a trusted nation.
- Dr. Ghani should allow Dr. Abdullah to lead the peace process.
- Unfortunately, the Afghan leadership is trying to kill time and the Taliban have no desire to talk with the Afghan Government.
- There is a need for the third option to explore peace and this belongs to different segments of the Afghan society who are capable of negotiating peace.
- The Afghan Peace is beyond Afghan personalities. It is a national discussion about the principles of democracy, constitution and freedom of the press that should be maintained.
- Regarding the Afghan Government:
- Dr. Ghani has some plans for the future of the country. Not sure how realistic his goals are. He is emphasizing the Republic and Democracy. Neither Democracy nor Elections have worked well so far.
- Dr. Ghani is trying to extend 5 years of his government and this is selfish. If Dr. Ghani is using some crimes as an excuse for not releasing the rest of the Taliban prisoners, then what about the crimes committed by Mujahedin in Kabul between 1992-1996?
- There is no common language and coordination in the government. The National Security Advisor is saying one thing , the Foreign Minister is saying something else and the High Council for Peace is missing. The politicians are also scattered in different directions. All of these factors weaken the position of Afghanistan in peace negotiations.
Unfortunately, the politicians are more concerned about their own personal interests than peace.
- The Government still does not have a complete cabinet after several months.
If the Government is part of the corruption, how can people have trust?
- Because Afghanistan lacks economic independence, it does not have political sovereignty. There is a need for mass movement in Afghanistan to speak up.
- Both Drs. Ghani and Abdullah should engage the political parties and demonstrate to the US, our neighbors and the Taliban that Afghanistan is capable of working together as united people without outside pressures. The technocrats can join those who care for their country.
- Some leaders have stolen a lot from this country and their children are living abroad.
- The fraudulent elections buried democracy in Afghanistan.
- The Afghan Government does not have a political agenda towards peace.
- Regarding the United States:
- There is an election in the USA and President Trump would like to use the Afghan peace as a political success for his re-election bid.
- After the peace process, the US has some economic plans in Afghanistan too.
The United States wants to safeguard its interest in the region in the areas of terrorism and drugs.
- Iran, Russia and China have problems with the United States.
- Eventually, both Pompeo and Khalilzad will be held accountable by the US Congress if peace is not achieved.
- Khalilzad wants to give the power to the Taliban. So far, his agreements with Taliban have not brought peace, The Taliban have increased their attacks.
- Peace is an American project.
- The United States will get out of the Afghan scene and will enroll/insert Pakistan again in the Afghan affairs.
- The United States should end its double political game.
- The Trump administration has not been successful strategically in Afghanistan.
- Regarding The Taliban.
- The majority of Taliban are Afghans too.
- They are not a single cohesive group. Recently, they have brought some changes in Doha where they have added the military wing leadership to the Qatar Political team.
- The Taliban will not accept the current leadership in Afghanistan.
- Besides fighting, I have not heard anything from Taliban about peace for the country.
- Along with the politically motivated Taliban, some have joined fighting because they receive salaries while others are engaged in drugs and other criminal activities.
- Taliban are not an independent group.
- Regarding The Neighboring Countries:
- Both Russia and Iran support the Taliban. ISIS is a big problem in the area.
Pakistan is a political Islamist society. The United States will always pay attention to this country, especially with the possibility of a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan.
- Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan so it will maintain its interest through the Taliban, but India is afraid of this scenario. India is worried that after peace in Afghanistan, the terrorists will target Kashmir and create problems.
- Russia, Iran and China can play a very important role in the Afghan peace process.
- Regarding The Inra-Afghan Peace Dialogue:
- There is a need for a temporary government with participation of some prominent Afghans.
- Violence has increased by both sides (the government and the Taliban) which will make the intra-Afghan dialogue more challenging.
- There is no goodwill between the Taliban and the Afghan Government.
Conclusion: I sincerely hope that the temporary cease fire during Eid-al Adha and the complete release of the prisoners by both parties will generate goodwill and build confidence towards the next phase of the intra-Afghan dialogue towards peace. The Afghan people have suffered too much for too long. There hearts are broken, there minds are confused and the hopes are dashed. There is a need for Trust Building at this crucial moment. A six months Cease Fire will be the answer for all prayers. This is the most humane and Islamic way.
Dr. Matin Royeen is an Afghan-American educator. He can be reached at: [email protected]