By: Farkhunda Seddiqi and Saqalain Eqbal
The Taliban movement was created in an opposition to the Mujahidin regime by the financial and motivational support of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Although the Taliban claimed power in order to ensure justice and Islamic Sharia for the Afghan citizens, they failed to do so as much as did the Mujahidin. Afghanistan experienced one of its darkest historical periods during their reign due to their lack of efficiency in governing.
9/11 happened when they were in rule and Osama Bin Laden was known to be given shelter under their support. The US requested Osama’s handover but Mullah Omar (Amir of the Taliban) refused to do so (Mullah Omar thought it would be unethical to hand over someone to their enemy if they’ve taken shelter in your home). He later expressed willingness to assist, however it was late and the US along with NATO allies came to defeat them militarily. Since then, it has been almost 20 years that Afghanistan is burning in flames of civilian casualties, political instability and internal conflicts.
Recently, there have been efforts to make peace through a way other than war. the US and Taliban signed an agreement, in which the US appeared to provide a context for the negotiations and promised 5000 prisoners’ release by the Afghan government in order for the Taliban to show a willingness to sit at the table of negotiations with Afghans. This agreement soon was followed by the release of Talib Prisoners and the start of the negotiations in Doha-Qatar. It has been almost two months and The Afghan delegation team in their negotiations with the Taliban haven’t been able to agree on literally anything.
Amrullah Saleh, the First Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in a tweet said that “… we got nothing for the release of 5500 terrorists including 60 high profile drug smugglers”. Today we are in a political precipice as no advancement has been made recently on the peace process of Afghanistan, despite the Negotiating Peace Delegation of Afghanistan left for Doha on 12th September 2020. We are in a position that we can neither go forward or backward nor undo some of the possible actions or decisions that have led us to where we are today.
Perhaps the history of Afghanistan is not something that would interest some people, perhaps to them, 9/11 is the beginning, regardless of the internal civil war in Afghanistan that has lasted for decades. Irrespective of that, even if 9/11 is presumed to be the beginning, for the purpose of this paper, it is incontrovertible that Afghanistan could have become a threat, not only to the region but the entire globe. This is exactly when the base of Alqa’eda was attributed to Afghanistan, merely because the Taliban decided to refuge Bin Laden, the leader of Alqa’eda. Perhaps Afghanistan would have had a different fate than that of today if his refuge was disallowed.
Perhaps the US would have not authorized the use of force and invasion of Afghanistan. Perhaps Afghanistan would have adapted the Islamic Emirates, perhaps the Taliban would have not been marginalized and hold the grudge that now has become a thirst that could only be quenched by the blood of harmless and innocent people of Afghanistan.
If the inclusiveness of the Taliban is now what interests/distress the international community, it could be strongly contended that why was the Taliban excluded from taking direct part in determining the parameters of the Bonn Agreement, back then in 2001 when the Bonn conference was convened. The United Nations invited various factions of Afghanistan, turning a blind eye to the Taliban. Possibly it could have allowed them to negotiate a stable polity, and to remove the potential terrorist threats, collectively. However, the US’s implicit condition was to purposefully exclude the Taliban. Now the US itself has reached a bilateral agreement with an insurgent group (the Taliban) that once conditioned its exclusion from the Bonn conference.
What distinguishes between the Taliban back then and now? What incentivizes the US and the government of Afghanistan to believe if the Taliban can be a party to the negotiating table now, despite our diverging values and principles? Would not the US troop withdrawal and warmly welcoming the Taliban back to the country pose a threat to the government of Afghanistan locally and an alarming threat to the international community at an international level?
We are personally of the opinion that the sole distinction is the fact that the Taliban are now given an office in Qatar, they are given a platform, which demonstrates their organization and how well they are supported by outsiders. However, the thought that the Taliban are now civilized and that their values have been altered over time is nothing more than a fallacy. Neither the government of Afghanistan nor the US or any member at the international level should be naïve nor gullible enough to live up to this thought. The firm and strict position they are maintaining on the negotiating table manifests and delineates their bad faith and wrong intentions, and also proves that they are in every way the same as they left.
The Taliban have always sought the solution of everything in violence. Every time I think of them, I imagine them as stubborn children who would ask the elders to give them some candy, or else they would mutilate their own body parts. By this, it is implied as if the child is the Taliban, the body parts are their own countrymen and the candy is their unrealistic and malicious desires. Violence is not the solution, however, agreement on a permanent ceasefire, to me, is no different than a myth, fictitious and imaginary.
From a legal perspective, I support the position of the Negotiating Delegation of Afghanistan on denying to accept the US-Taliban Agreement as the base of the negotiations. Owing to the fact that it is a bilateral agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban, the government of Afghanistan is not a party to the agreement. Interestingly, patience is required to see if the interests of Trump’s and Biden’s Administration are aligned or Biden would opt for a new different policy. Yet, the peace of Afghanistan remains an unsolved tough problem that has left myriad casualties and is highly likely to leave more.
Reflecting back on what Amrullah Saleh has tweeted, the government of Afghanistan has released more or less 5500 Taliban prisoners who were incarcerated and incapacitated to engage in more terroristic activities. They are no longer incapacitated – thanks to the international pressures and the Consultative Peace Loya Jirga. Heaven knows how many of them are out there and whether our Afghan National Army can succumb to them or not. Afghanistan has witnessed many violent, barbaric and heinous attacks by the Taliban, despite being on a negotiating table.
We hope we are proven wrong, but we strongly believe that Afghanistan would go back to the old dark times or even worse if the circumstances go the same. Afghan security and defense departments said, “Afghanistan is home to 20 terrorist groups other than the Taliban”, including Haqqani network, Alqa’eda network and Daesh (ISIS-K) which are considered serious global threats. Most of the mentioned groups have been created outside Afghanistan and soon found their way to Afghanistan because of the unstable security. For instance, ISIS was prominently known to be a global threat in 2014 and was initially emerged in around Syria and Iraq but had its footprints in Afghanistan in 2019. Helpless civilian Afghans have been the major victims of such groups’ activities and expectedly, so will be the global community.
At the moment, the peace talks are in a stalemate situation, with no conspicuous progress. The unemployment is hitting its height, the rate of crimes has been enhanced in Afghanistan. The tycoons are reluctant to invest with a justified disinclination. Drug smuggling, explosions and all these factors strongly demoralize people and leave no choice but to migrate to other countries. This should be taken into account that the current situation in Afghanistan is not humane, but the inclusion of the Taliban would definitely exacerbate the circumstances, aggravate wounds, and would significantly disturb the so-called harmony of the country and the international community.
We, as concerned citizens of Afghanistan, call upon the international community to take collective actions to prevent such hazardous potential threats before it is too late. What we strongly suggest is that entirely submitting to the Taliban would take us 20 years back, that is for sure. Afghanistan is a war-stricken, political and economically backward country. Any decision made as a consequence of the imposition of international pressure would adversely influence the fate of the Afghan nation. Thus, the negotiating delegation of Afghanistan should come up with an approach to agree on terms that would embrace the Taliban symbolically, minimizing the authorities they would exercise to the extent possible. A working strategy suggested by this paper would be agreeing on pardoning and embracing the Taliban on a condition. By this, it is implied that the opposing party should ensure a minimum of 3-5 years of a permanent ceasefire. This is so that the Afghan nation could be persuaded to leave behind the harms inflicted by the Taliban and that they prove that they are no longer a threat to global and regional security. Plus, this probationary period will buy the time for Afghanistan and the international community to strategize for approaches to resolve this global issue, if the Taliban fail to comply with such a requirement.