By Zia Nezam
In the modern era, a negotiation is generally understood as a process by which, in this case, belligerent parties show a willingness to resolve issues in order to reach a commonly desired outcome, such as cessation of hostilities, an armistice, or peace of some duration. The “peace” talks the world can see occurring in Qatar between the Taliban and the popularly elected government of Afghanistan since September 12, however, really does not fit any common understanding of a negotiation between warring sides.
At the onset of talks, there was a lot of hope for a cease-fire or at least a reduction in Taliban violence, so negotiating parties could address hard issues that have kept Afghanistan from attaining peace and stability as it develops. Sadly, the peace talks are at an impasse. There currently is no advancement. Moreover, objective reporting has shown that in the past 50 days, the Taliban has carried out roughly 2,000 attacks that have killed or wounded nearly 900 Afghans, including an attack in a couple of days ago on the university in Kabul. The university attack is a clear example of the continuing Taliban hatred for education and non-fundamentalist intellectual inquiry – or simply put, hatred for the modern world.
Thus, peace talks are at ground zero or square one. Through the terrorist actions of continuing suicide or roadside bombings, killing primarily children and women and of destroying public and private property, the Taliban thinks the US will cut losses and leave Afghanistan and the current government will fall because of its deep corruption that thwarts full-on national unity against the long-rejected Taliban. However, the US and international allies are not leaving and the current elected government is confronting corruption.
The Taliban wants no peace deal; it wants no elections going forward; it has shown no willingness to accept the positive changes in Afghanistan in the generation since it was rejected by the Afghan people. This is why the Taliban tried to only deal with the United States, believing the America would be satisfied with the [false] promise that a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan would not again be the sanctuary of all manner of terrorism.
What the Taliban refuses to accept is that Afghanistan in 2020 is a totally different country and society. Moreover, the people of the world, even dictators, know the true nature of the Taliban. The Taliban has shown no positive changes in its extremist character or expressed desires since the Doha talks. In 2020, the Taliban must reckon with millions of literate and educated Afghan citizens nation-wide, a civil society pursuing diverse , societal goals; human rights activists, and most importantly, womens rights activists. In sum, here today in Afghanistan is a society that wants to continue on a path towards modernity with greater personal freedom, opportunities, and equality.
Consequently, the only way the Taliban could enforce its antithetical, extreme ideology is by force. The bloody Taliban dream, modern Afghanistan’s nightmare, can only be achieved through a continuation of violence and massacre of innocents. So, now we understand why there is no peace deal. Until Taliban leaders will accept voting by all adult Afghans to choose their government and the society they want their elected officials bring about, why have a charade of peace talks. Without a recognition of the new Afghan reality by the old-model Taliban and an expressed willingness to renounce violence, is there any possibility of cooperative success in peace discussions in Qatar?