The political and social environment of Afghanistan has always been a complex one, and this complexity has occupied the minds of Afghan political experts for 41 years.
Little progress has been made since the start of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government to reach an agreement on Afghanistan’s political future.
The eyes of the Afghan people are closed to the Qatar process after Bonn. The Qatari talks are expected to find a solution to Afghanistan’s nearly 100-year-old conflict. The agreement of the parties to the conflict on the procedure for future talks and their emphasis on a political solution has revived this hope.
The two sides are still discussing technical issues, such as the basis of the negotiations, the framework for resolving the disputes, the points to be discussed, and the agenda of the negotiations. Overall, this collective situation of illusions obscures the fundamental realities that have clouded Afghanistan’s future.
Not surprisingly, the Taliban want the Doha Agreement to be the basis of these negotiations. An agreement that is generously on the side of this group and completely ignores the Afghan government. The agreement does not call on insurgents to reduce violence or terrorism, nor does it seek to recognize the Afghan government, while this is a logical part of any agreement between governmental and non-governmental parties.
The delegation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, on the other hand, refers to the framework recently approved by the Loya Jirga in Kabul and the joint declaration between the Government of Afghanistan and the United States on the peace process. These differences are compounded by the Taliban’s reluctance to declare a permanent ceasefire or reduce violence. Last year, Zalmai Khalilzad, the US envoy for peace in Afghanistan, predicted that the Taliban would not accept a permanent ceasefire until a political agreement was reached with Kabul. Earlier, he stressed the need to reduce violence under the Doha agreement. Less has been said about the fact that if the escalating violence gets out of hand, it will seriously derail the peace process.
But there are some important questions: Why are the talks between the government and the Taliban slow?
What are the salient expectations and concerns of the Peace Triangle (government, Taliban, and the United States)?
What will be the outcome of the plans for peace talks between Afghans? And which Bonn mistakes should not be repeated in Doha?
Analyzing the approach of the parties to the conflict helps to clarify the concerns of the parties to the conflict and the reason for the slowness of the dialogue.
The Afghan government’s approach to the Qatar process is a “delay policy.” The government is worried about staying and leaving. The government has pursued a policy of delay to address this concern. The second and third parts of the Qatari agreement between the Taliban and the United States raise concerns about the formation of a new government.
- The United States and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seek positive relations. And they expect the relationship between the United States and the “new post-agreement Islamic State to be determined by inter-Afghan negotiations” to be positive.
- The United States will seek economic cooperation “with the new post-agreement Islamic State determined by inter-Afghan negotiations” for reconstruction, and will not interfere in its internal affairs. The agreement refers to the “new Islamic government after the inter-Afghan negotiation agreement.” Another point that emerges from this agreement is that the nature of the system has already been finalized by the United States and the Taliban before it is discussed in the inter-Afghan talks. An issue that worries the Afghan government and takes the approach of procrastination.
On the contrary, the provocation of the Taliban and the US government towards the Qatar process is a “policy of acceleration”. The Taliban and the United States were in a hurry to reach a peace agreement. The Taliban are seeking a “policy of acceleration” and the finalization of the Qatar process as soon as possible for a number of reasons, including two key factors in the US-Taliban agreement.
- With the start of the inter-Afghan negotiations, the United States will begin its administrative review of the current US sanctions and the “Rewards List” against members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is not recognized as a state, with the aim of lifting these sanctions.
- 2. With the start of inter-Afghan talks, the United States will begin diplomatic engagement with other members of the UN Security Council and Afghanistan to “remove members of the UAE from the sanctions list.” An issue that has forced the Taliban to pursue an “accelerated policy.” In addition, the Taliban have been keen to maintain the concessions made by the Trump administration.
On the other hand, the Trump administration had pursued a “policy of acceleration” for domestic consumption and voting in the US election. But the efforts of his administration and his special envoy Zalmai Khalilzad did not yield the desired early results.
Agenda on the table
Following the agreement on a 22-point framework, talks began on 5 November on the agenda for peace talks. The important items on the agenda were the ceasefire, the future of the political system, the release of the remaining Taliban from prison, the lifting of sanctions against the Taliban, the issue of withdrawal, reintegration, and so on. Apparently, the government and the Taliban are pursuing different agendas. A ceasefire is a priority for the Afghan government, but it is not a priority for the Taliban. The Taliban are interested in addressing the political system first.
With this in mind, it seems unlikely that an agreement will be reached between the parties in the near future during the Afghan-Taliban peace talks, in which various actors and actors are involved. The following model illustrates the complexity and multiple actors involved in the Afghan peace process.
Public Awareness: One of the factors that complexly affect peace is raising the awareness of Afghan citizens. Based on the available data and statistics, most Afghans do not want to re-experience the events of the 1990s. On the other hand, the demands of the citizens are different from the past, and the current generation does not easily waive their citizenship rights.
Civil society: Civil society, as part of Afghan society, can also play an effective role in putting pressure on the government and the international community to support the demands of Afghan citizens.
Human Rights and the United Nations: Following the fall of the Taliban Emirate and the formation of a new government in Afghanistan, the spread of human rights has been one of the main concerns of the United Nations and the Commission on Human Rights. It is believed that the Taliban’s approach will be the end of human rights in Afghanistan. The government’s and the UN’s emphasis on human rights values that contradict the Taliban’s ideology makes it harder to reach an agreement.
Constitution: Another point of contention between the parties is the law. The Taliban do not recognize the Afghan constitution, and the Afghan government insists on the constitution.
The Republic and the Emirate: The confrontation between the two discourses of the Republic and the Emirate is another important point of contention between the two sides. How the future political system will be one of the issues that will bring the peace talks to a standstill. So far, the Taliban’s emphasis on the Islamic system and the Afghan government has also insisted on a republic.
Release of Taliban prisoners and the intensity of the war: The release of 5,000 government-held Taliban prisoners was one of the basic preconditions for the start of inter-Afghan dialogue. The liberation of these insurgents increased the heat of war in Afghanistan. However, one of the provisions of the US peace agreement with the Taliban was the reduction of violence, which has not yet been implemented.
White House Transformation: Another butterfly effect on the Afghan peace process was Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 US election. According to US foreign policy experts, Mike Pompeo and Zalmai Khalilzad were the main architects of the US peace agreement with the Taliban. A change in US leadership will also change foreign policy agents. Anthony Blakeen is set to replace Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, and there is a special envoy for the Afghan peace process.
Pakistan: Pakistan’s southeastern neighbor is one of the most influential players in Afghan politics. Pakistan can play a role in Afghanistan’s security and peace in several ways.
Pakistan-India rivalry: Pakistan and India are at loggerheads over the Kashmir region, and as Afghanistan moves closer to India, violence in Afghanistan has escalated.
Religious schools: Pakistan has 30,000 religious schools in its territory. According to sources, most Taliban fighters graduate from these schools.
Iran: This article assumes that Iran has been left out of the Afghan peace talks. That is why Iran is trying to play a greater role in the process or at least influence the process by supporting the disaffected Taliban.
Qatar: In the Afghan peace talks, Qatar is playing a facilitating role and Qatar is competing with Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the Arab world, and therefore Qatar is trying to play a greater role in the developments in the region and the Islamic world.
Given the many factors that have been mentioned and using the theory of complexity and turmoil, achieving peace in Afghanistan seems difficult. Numerous actors and the butterfly effect of various factors have added to the complexity of the process. Given the complexity of the situation and the impossibility of the option of agreement due to the sharp differences between the two sides and the diverse interests of countless actors, the most probable scenario is more chaos.