In this photograph taken on November 3, 2015, Afghan Taliban fighters listen to Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund (unseen), the newly appointed leader of a breakaway faction of the Taliban, at Bakwah in the western province of Farah. A breakaway faction of the Taliban has appointed its own leader in the first formal split in the Afghan militant movement under new head Mullah Mansour, posing a fresh hurdle to potential peace talks. Mullah Rasool was named the leader of the faction in a mass gathering of dissident fighters this week in the remote southwestern province of Farah, according to an AFP reporter who attended the meeting. AFP PHOTO / Javed Tanveer (Photo credit should read JAVED TANVEER/AFP/Getty Images)

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While many reports circulate on media channels regarding a possible acceptance of a ceasefire by the Taliban’s ruling council, Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson of the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate, draws the line between the official and unofficial reports through a tweet. “Some media channels spread reports based on rumors that are false”, says Suhail Shaheen, on 29th of December, 2019. The tweet strongly urged that the media shall stop publishing any report unless it is being “confirmed.”

Ironically, it is interesting to note that Suhail Shaheen made this statement as soon as the Associated Press (AP) reported that “the Taliban’s ruling council agreed Sunday to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan.” Despite the fact that Suhail Shaheen makes no explicit relation between his statement and the report on a ceasefire, the statement has implicitly refused these particular reports.      

There are two types of reports on the possible agreement of a ceasefire between the United States and the Taliban. In the first source, a journalist familiar with the US-Taliban peace negotiations is quoted who has reportedly said that “all members of the Taliban’s ruling council, and a majority of their leaders, have agreed to a one-week ceasefire or reduction of violence that will be limited to cities.” In the second source, Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, is quoted who directly rejected the reports on a US-Taliban ceasefire. “The reality of the situation is that the Islamic Emirate has no intention of declaring a ceasefire”, Mujahid emphasized.

With this uncertainty, the result of the US-Taliban peace deal is still up in the air. The Taliban hesitates to accept a ceasefire due to many reasons. Predominantly because a ceasefire agreement will adversely affect the morale of the fighters on the ground. As a consequence of understanding and experiencing the ease in peace, the on-the-ground fighters of the Taliban will dodge to fight as passionately as they used to. Furthermore, to hide the divisions among leading Taliban officials, this group has a commitment of portraying a kind of a picture of this group where the Taliban altogether firmly stands on a single stance and objective. The purpose of this is to show that the Islamic Emirate is a united group with one objective which is to end the “American occupation.” 

In the best-case scenario, the official approval of a ceasefire by the Taliban will be perceived as a desire for future agreements which will lead to an intra-Afghan dialogue. As has been noted, the importance of a ceasefire between the Taliban and the United States is significant for the continuation of the deal. Above all, a temporary ceasefire is the absolute absence of violence across the country or thereof, which is a desire of most of the ordinary citizens.  In the worst-case scenario, the Taliban will twist this condition by adding the element of the reduction of violence. On the one hand, agreeing upon reduction of violence will be time-consuming because this element is considered as something hardly tangible and, on the other, adding reduction of violence shows less desire of the Taliban for a political settlement. Both sides are inflexible and uncompromising in terms of accepting each other’s conditions.

This rigidity is a hindrance to a prompt result of the US-Taliban which can lead to losing the grasp of a political settlement between the United States and the Taliban. In spite of this, the Afghan government “expects” to see a result out of these talks “soon” to start the intra-Afghan dialogue. The key to this puzzle is making compromises.

Therefore, it is for the best interest of the United States and the Taliban to take a compromised reconciliation approach throughout this phase of talks. The Taliban, regardless of divisions among their leading officials, shall accept a ceasefire to move forward to a political settlement. The United States should also ensure the Taliban that with the official approval of a ceasefire, they can make certain compromises including but not limited to releasing a number of imprisoned Taliban as a token of trust.

Author

  • Jamshid Mohammadi is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Public Administration at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) through U.S. Embassy Scholarship Programs at AUAF. Jamshid was elected as Student Representative of Student Government Association in his first year of university. Currently, he is a member of the Board of Executive of Peace and Transitional Justice club at AUAF.