Afghan peace possible through talks between US, Taliban
Muhammad Hanif


IT is a long standing demand of the Taliban that they would talk to the US directly since it has the power to make decisions regarding Afghan peace and not the Afghan government that will not be able to make decisions without US approval.

It is important to start bilateral talks without losing any more time to stop the bloodshed in Afghanistan in view of the unprecedented increase in the Taliban attacks in the last two weeks that have caused many casualties to the Afghan Security Forces and the civilians. The Afghan government is being criticized by the citizens for failing to evolve an effective security policy. Recently it was encouraging news to hear from Pakistanís Foreign Minister in his press conference held on 6 September 2018, after holding bilateral talks with the US Secretary of the State on 5 September 2018 in Islamabad, that the US was now ready to hold direct talks with the Afghan Taliban. Pakistanís Foreign Minister also said that Pakistan was ready to provide any possible assistance in the Afghan peace process. The war on terror being fought in Afghanistan for the last seventeen years has caused colossal human and material losses to the Afghan people and the Pakistani people, due to the spill over of the Afghan war into Pakistan. In fighting this war, while the US and NATO forces have also suffered human casualties, the war spending in Afghanistan by the US and NATO countries and the spending being used for Afghanistanís reconstruction and running its government are now above a trillion US dollars.
While fighting the spill over of terrorism from Afghanistan, Pakistan has suffered the most, although it has eliminated terrorism in its territory. In the process, Pakistan has sacrificed more than 70,000 human lives and economic losses of above 110 billion US dollars. Despite the above discussed colossal sufferings of the Afghan people, there is no hope that the war can end by the use of force. At this stage of the war, it has become amply clear that for peace in Afghanistan, holding of negotiations between the warring sides, i.e., the US and the Afghan Taliban is very necessary, since many rounds of talks on Afghanistan at international level at various forums and all efforts of the Afghan governments to invite the Taliban to the talks have not been successful. Hence, the only available, practicable option is to begin the Afghan peace talks between the US government and the Taliban, to which the Taliban had already shown their willingness.
The above discussion leads to an important question, that as and when the bilateral talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban start what will be the driving factors that can enable the negotiations to be successful? In this context, three factors are needed to be recognized by both sides while conducting the talks. One, that no side can win this war decisively through use of force as has been witnessed in the last 17 years of this war. Second, the Afghan people and the affected regional countries, especially Pakistan have suffered too much and now they are in dire need of peace to live peacefully and work for their economic well being. Third, the first two factors in mind both the sides have to adopt a realistic, flexible and accommodating strategies to adjust their demands accordingly, to arrive at a peaceful settlement of the dispute.
During the process of the dialogue, the central driving force should be the realization that the Afghan people have suffered too much and for too long and now they want peace, for which the negotiations must be made sustainable and finally successful. The final agreement should be such that it should be acceptable to all Afghan people. And, the resulting new constitution of Afghanistan should be truly representative of the Afghan people with due share to be guaranteed for all ethnic groups based on their population, in the future Afghanistan government setups and equal economic opportunities have also to be assured in the constitution.
In view of the above it would be prudent for both the US and the Taliban to start their bilateral negotiations without wasting any more time. Both the sides should also ensure that the talks are made sustainable and result oriented with the spirit of give and take to reach a final agreement. As well the neighbouring regional countries and other major powers should play their part in facilitating and holding these talks for the benefit of the Afghan people and for the sake of achieving regional peace and stability so that the Afghan people and the neighbouring countries can focus on their economic evolution and considerably being.