Taliban talks: Dialogue and violence can’t go together

TEHRAN, Nov. 13 (MNA) – Dialogue and violence cannot go hand in hand. The first cardinal principle of ‘peace negotiations’ is an unconditional ceasefire. That is how the two warring parties build trust, bury the hatchet and make peace with each other. You cannot extend an olive branch and point the barrel of gun at the same time. That renders the whole exercise futile.

Over the past few weeks, Afghan Taliban has been actively involved in so-called ‘peace talks’ with the US government, even though the group has intransigently refused to engage with the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul, calling it a “puppet government”. What makes the US government a credible ‘stakeholder’ in this whole peace exercise is something only the Taliban leadership can explain.

US government recently appointed seasoned diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad as its ‘peace emissary’ to facilitate talks with the insurgent group. According to reports, he held first round of talks with the group, which however did not yield anything except a few handshakes. Before Khalilzad, a few senior Trump administration officials had held secret parleys with representatives from Taliban’s political office in Doha, during which Taliban were reportedly offered a role in Kabul government too, much to the chagrin of anti-Taliban political stalwarts in Afghanistan.

Not to be left behind, America’s traditional rival Russia has also jumped the bandwagon, offering to facilitate ‘peace talks’ between the Taliban and Afghan government. Pertinently, the present day Taliban leaders, backed by the US, had once fought against Russians in Afghanistan. How the political dynamics change is evident from the manner in which both the US and Russia are now playing ‘mediators’ between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

On Friday, Moscow hosted a landmark ‘peace’ conference on Afghanistan, which saw the participation of representatives from the Taliban, Afghan government and many regional countries. The ‘talks’ aimed at reviving the ‘peace dialogue’ after 17 years of mindless war is the first time Moscow has invited the Afghan Taliban to the table. The talks were scheduled to be held earlier but were postponed after the Afghan government refused to take part, saying the talks should be Afghan-led only.

The US government, which has been holding ‘peace talks’ with the insurgent group separately, is not in favor of Russia leading the initiative. That obviously hurts the ego of Uncle Sam. It is a different matter that the US government has already admitted defeat in the war-ravaged country after 18 years of wasted effort. And it is still a mystery whether the US is fighting the Taliban or fighting alongside the Taliban against the people of Afghanistan.

The US invasion of Afghanistan has not only destroyed the country but led to thousands of civilian casualties and incalculable collateral damage. The men they have been claiming to fight are now sitting across the table with them, while the poor and hapless people of Afghanistan continue to pay the heavy price of the war they didn’t ask for. It’s a dirty war and America’s biggest shame.

While the US and Russia hold ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban, the insurgent group continues to launch attacks on civilian population across the country. In the last few weeks, the group has again chosen the soft target – Hazara Shias – in multiple provinces. There has been a spate of attacks on Hazara Shias in Urzugan and Ghazni provinces, resulting in casualties and displacement of people.

In Ghazni, the twin districts of Jaghori and Malistan came under attack last week, and local inhabitants had to come out themselves to repel the attack in the absence of Afghan security forces. Afghan government has come under blistering criticism for failing to send reinforcements in time to thwart the Taliban offensive. Rohullah Yakobi, a researcher with Human Security Centre, who belongs to Jaghori, said hours after the multi-pronged attack on Jaghori, people were “resisting on their own” against a “well-armed terrorist group” and there was “no sign of support” from the Kabul government.

Till Sunday, all roads leading to Jaghori remained closed as the fighting raged on. People, according to a source, have taken shelter in mosques and makeshift tents far away from Hotqol – where around a dozen security personnel were killed couple of days ago.  Reports said that insurgents have ransacked and burned private properties in the area.

So, under these circumstances, it makes no sense why ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban should continue while they commit horrendous war crimes in Afghanistan? Why not call for a ceasefire before resuming talks? Why allow the insurgent group to negotiate from a position of strength? Do Afghan lives matter?

It appears, for the US government, Afghan lives don’t matter. As per latest reports, a notorious Taliban leader has been released by Pakistan at the request of the US apparently to give push to ‘peace efforts’, thereby putting Afghan lives at more risk.

It is just another political maneuver on part of the US to keep the pot boiling and to strengthen the invasion. That is precisely why these ‘peace talks’ are an exercise in futility and why they would produce no desirable results. Peaceful Afghanistan, it goes without saying, is not in America’s interest.

MNA/TT

News Code 139580

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