Reconciling two extremes: A huge ordeal indeed

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Analyzing the stances of the government and the Taliban following interviews with representatives of both sides, APW finds that there is a huge polarity on how they see peace. Thus, dealing with several key points stated by the sides – some of which are summarized in this piece – is essential to successful all-Afghan peace parleys among the parties into conflict. APW concludes that reconciliation of the sides’ contrasting arguments, as well as a compromise over them, are only possible through dialogue, which should kick-off in earnest. 


First of all, both sides agree that peace is a priority for the Afghan state in light of the sacred religion of Islam as they pledge to bring about peace and stability; however, their approaches and modi operandi are two ends of a continuum. The government stresses over the preservation of the Constitution, the republican system and the achievements of the country over the past two decades while the Taliban insurgent group has its own strong religious-tendency still intact as it says they are going to emphasize Islamic identity in intra-Afghan negotiations. 


Moreover, both sides are playing a blame game in regards to the question that who threatens peace. The government says the Taliban are the supporters of those who resort to violence and killing by creating fear and terror, whereas the rebels hold some figures in the Afghan government culpable of threatening peace, reasoning that their interests are at stake if peace and Islamic rule return to the country. 


Similarly, both sides dismiss the probability of civil war. The government boasts of having “a very strong social and governmental capacity and the threats of terrorist groups will never lead to a civil war in the country.” But, on the other hand, the Taliban say no new war will start as they are, supposedly, eliminating the causes of the existing war. “We anticipate that the war in Afghanistan will not last long after the end of the invasion,” they said while referring to the US troop full withdrawal from Afghanistan. 


By the same token, both sides accuse each other of violating the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in February in terms of increased violence – something that should have decreased instead. Also, the government claims the Taliban facilitate breeding ground for Daesh terrorist group and its ilk; in contrast, the Taliban allege the government is colluding with Daesh to carry out barbaric attacks and then blame them on the Islamic Emirate. 


Considering the remarks and positions of both sides, one can conclude that they are all part of a policy to create leverage and upper hand on one another. Exercising and resorting to brinkmanship, the Taliban warn the war may escalate again if there is a breakdown in the peace negotiations, which were anticipated to be initiated in Qatar but have recently been delayed for an indefinite period, while the government describes itself capable of peace or war – whatever the insurgent group opts for. 


This is while our findings through Reduction in Violence (RiV)-monitoring reveal that the violence has partially decreased by the sides. They promised to reduce violence in the Doha agreement but that didn’t happen as expected. On the Taliban’s part, despite there have been a decrease in suicide bombings, the targeted killings have increased. There haven’t been many complex attacks on cities by the Taliban but their IEDs emplaced earlier continue to kill people and children. Similarly, the government also violated its end of the bargain because, for example, we recorded an instance where security forces violated the three-day ceasefire in the latest EID occasion. There have been IED attacks and conflicts, and the war is ongoing unabatedly, victimizing and taking the lives of innocent Afghans. 


Given the circumstances, reconciling these two broadly-different points of view is purported to be a huge ordeal but it shouldn’t be so – the solution to all these conflicting ideas and voices is in the immediate launch of face-to-face intra-Afghan talks. The recent announcement of the talks’ postponement further complicates issues because it’s something surprising and unreasonable since all hurdles to the parleys have seemingly been overcome. Blame games, excuses and failed attempts to gain greater leverage over each other are not going to solve issues. Afghans are in dire need of peace at this juncture, something the warring sides should properly appreciate because ordinary civilians are rendered fuel for the ongoing violence and conflicts.