ACLED-APW Report Tracking Disorder During Taliban Rule in Afghanistan

Contentious prisoners freed; what lies ahead?


The delay in prisoner release process between the Afghan government and the Taliban – mainly due to the government’s reluctance to free the remaining 400 contentious Taliban prisoners who have purportedly been involved in high-profile attacks – had brought the peace process to a plateau. But hopes went high as a three-day Consultative Loya Jirga took a stark decision of approving the release of the prisoners, which was part of the Feb. 29 peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban. The issue of prisoner release was said to be seemingly the main stumbling block, as well as its resolution a stepping stone, to the launch of intra-Afghan talks. However, going against the tide, it’s advised that hopes shouldn’t be raised too high because they might prove false, given the long way ahead of us. It’s without a doubt that the peace process has reached a critical stage while the stakes are high, now more than ever, for everyone concerned but there are several key issues, also mentioned in the articles of the Loya Jirga’s recent declaration, that need to be properly heeded and should make us cautiously optimistic.

Having swallowed the bitter pill to give a nod for the release of the remaining Taliban prisoners, the Afghan nation has become very enthusiastic about the all-Afghan talks. At this point, there also seems no reason why the peace talks should not commence without much delay. Nevertheless, once the talks are launched, the next stage of negotiations is full of complications, and mainly the issue of power-sharing will bring up many sensitive issues; thus, this matter should not be turned a blind eye to. The Loya Jirga’s resolution letter stressed the preservation of Islamic values, the role of scholars, basic government institutions, democracy and gains of the past two decades in the negotiations; therefore, it wouldn’t be an easy task to arrive at a compromise and agreement over these issues, especially the power-sharing matter, considering the Taliban’s intransigence regarding forming Islamic Emirate and the government’s push to preserve the republican system and that too when the government has lost a considerable portion of the country to the Taliban. Although every true Afghan wants an end to violence as the four decades of war-weariness have made them desperate for peace, there are possibilities of long-drawn negotiations that would complicate matters. So fears in this regard are reasonable and thus there lies many stumbling blocks ahead; we have just overcome one in a long road to peace.

Another issue is whether the neighboring countries are taking sincere steps to promote peace in Afghanistan as the question is: are they heavily invested in a positive outcome of the upcoming talks? A plain answer is ‘no’ because they have been giving proper lip service, but their actions on the ground speak otherwise. These countries have an influence so deep in Afghanistan that they could attempt to botch the whole peace process whenever they want, provided that something goes awry and their interests are no longer being secured. For this purpose, the Loya Jirga’s resolution has rightly asked the global fraternity to prevent interference of those countries which are either directly or indirectly involved in Afghanistan’s instability and internal affairs or are supporting terrorist groups. 

A recent report revealed that the Pakistani military and intelligence have still not abandoned the policy of training terrorist groups on their soil and have recently created a new extremist group under the name of ‘Khattak Taliban’. Without gaining any lesson from being on the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list, the country continues its state-sponsoring of terrorism and it seems terrorists are deeply embedded in its warp and weft. This is while the presence of the terrorist Daesh group is already a looming threat and with these new groups being formed, Pakistani intelligence wants to increase the chances of spoiler events taking place. These terrorist groups are being trained beforehand to fill the gap of proxy tools in Afghanistan and serve Pakistan’s interests in the wake of the Taliban’s reconciliation. This is yet another stumbling block to peace in Afghanistan that we would witness in not too distant future when violence increases, even after there is a formal announcement of a ceasefire. 

Furthermore, there are other complex matters ahead of us such as demands for amendments to the Constitution and ensuring women’s rights, as well as their role in the peace process, but for now, progress hinges on the intra-Afghan talks that should be launched at the earliest possible. If the government and the Taliban wish to resolve the myriad of issues lying before them, entering into Afghan-owned, Afghan-led negotiations – sans foreign influence – is the finest way. Not giving a chance to foreigners to interfere and egg each side on would be a proper response that would help us resolve all the above-mentioned issues ourselves. As Afghans should remain cautiously optimistic about the future, it’s vital that they are left to their own devices and along with that, a great amount of flexibility in the positions of the warring sides throughout the dialogue is needed. Although it’s an opportune moment for Afghanistan to achieve peace, it’s still dependent on whether all stakeholders will stay the course and make it happen.

The author of this article is an Afghan journalist and writer, currently contributing to Afghan Peace Watch (APW) and Afghanistan Times. He has previously worked with Pajhwok Afghan News (PAN). Alami is also pursuing his studies at the American University of Afghanistan. He can be reached at @alamitweets.

Views expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect that of APW’s.