India’s rejection of the US’ “good Taliban – bad Taliban” stance has been consistent. However, my interactions on the ground with the Taliban over a period of a few weeks travelling the length and breadth of Afghanistan have shown, that there is indeed a significant different division within the Taliban.That said, the US is also not entirely accurate in bifurcating the Taliban neatly into good-bad binaries. The problem is the “Taliban” are ordinary Afghans, whose normally tribal, warlike lifestyle has been carefully moulded by Pakistan into a comprehensive anti-government strategy.
The question is what would a correct understanding of the Taliban fault lines be? What can India do? And what lessons must we incorporate into our Afghan strategy?
Paying obeisance at the tomb of Ahmad Shah Masood in the Panjshir Valley
Background & Methodology
My visit to Afghanistan from March to April 2019 was divided into two parts. The first as a tourist and the second after much liaising with sources in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, as a study tour specifically liaising with the Taliban under the safest possible circumstances. While the intent was also to investigate the condition of women, these interactions in rural Afghanistan were exceedingly rare given local cultural norms. As a result, only 18 interviews of rural women could take place without male supervision.
While this report uses anecdotes, it is based on primary research as best can be conducted in a high-risk conflict zone, with anecdotal references used merely to highlight some of the conclusions. To note that while the primary research did involve a significant number of interviews, these had to be done randomly as the opportunity arose and could not be carried out as per age, religious, ethnic or gender demography – hence I have avoided tabulating the results.
Landing in Kabul is one of the most thrilling experiences. Nestled in a valley, the approach is a corkscrew where the plane has to fly very close to snow-capped mountains. The problem is, having been brought up on a steady stream of how beautiful Kabul is from the Baburnama, Kabul has absolutely no charm. A massive swelling of the population due to the ongoing insurgency means the city has been turned into one big slum – if you live in Delhi – visualise Hauz Khas village minus the restaurants and pubs. Traffic is chaotic – but security outside the airport is relatively lax, till you come to the business heart of the city. Contrasting this with my experience of visiting Srinagar in August 2019, a month after the abrogation of Article 370, security is far stricter in Kabul, though more pervasive but lenient in Srinagar.
Kabul is a bustling city and there is significant freedom of movement as long as one is innocuous (dressed as an Afghan) and sticks to tourist locations. I was to discover shortly thereafter how easy it was for lower and middle-level Taliban functionaries to come into Kabul for meetings. Day 1 involved an obligatory trip to the bird market – where one can buy a wide variety of caged bird including trained eagles and falcons. The smell is disgusting, not to mention a serious health hazard. Thankfully the tomb of Babur made up quite considerably. What is still not understood is, what exact beauty Babur found even in his final resting place, with the backdrop of a formidable but arid hill and a generally arid landscape with patches of green here and there. The famed melons and peaches of Afghanistan too left much to be desired – a far call from the eulogies to them in the Baburnama.
Trips out of Kabul were extremely high risk and had to be aborted the moment the driver felt unsafe. Drivers and cars had to be hired anew every morning to ensure the driver of the previous day would not be used again (the Taliban pays people for delivering foreigner to them) and cars had to be changed so that people would not know which guest house one was staying in. The short fast drive to Jalalabad was the first introduction to driving in the Afghan countryside. Less than 30 kilometres outside town, armed men started appearing (on one occasion with a rocket-propelled grenade clearly visible) and some in large groups. The problem is one couldn’t tell if these people were Taliban or just normal armed Afghans. My guide found it amusing that I thought there was a difference. While there were no Taliban Check posts, what was curious was that the occasional US and ANSF convoys would elicit one of two reactions – the armed men would get radio communications and saunter out of view. Or they would simply stay right there, in full view and let these military convoys pass.
This 3rd day in Afghanistan was particularly insightful, because it showed both the impossibility of identifying “Taliban” but also the sheer futility, given how easily they blend into the population – because they are the general population. Jalalabad and the road approach to it were particularly heavily guarded that day and a mere 20 kilometres from the city, we were told to return as the “situation had become untenable”. Mind you this wasn’t just for us, but the entire traffic from Kabul was being diverted back due to a large counter-insurgency operation in progress. The sheer number of armed non-military men along the road now made perfect sense. Though what did not make sense was how neither US nor ANSF made contact with these armed men on the highway. It seemed quite clear that some tacit rule exists for “mutual tolerance” outside a “designated conflict zone”.
At a Local country fair in Samaghan
The next day involved a drive from Kabul through to the Panjshir valley, with a small diversion and stop-off at the historic Salang pass and tunnel. Panjshir is truly beautiful as is the drive north. Once you enter the stunning deep ravines you see exactly how Ahmad Shah Masood was able to hold off the Soviets for so long so close to Kabul. Unlike the harrowing drive to Jalalabad, this drive was relaxed, with lots of tea stops, interaction with locals and shopping for curios. The most amazing part of this drive is the sheer number of tank, IFV and APC wreckages one comes across. Literally every 100 meters or so one can see badly damaged T-55s, T-62s, T-72, as well as assorted BRDMs and BMPs. Curiously, while Soviet equipment littered the landscape, on the drive one was able to spy, neatly organised graveyards for damaged US equipment – mostly Humvees but a lot of assorted MRAPs as well – possibly to hide the extent of losses since the US invasion began.
One main factor was the inability to get drivers to go to certain areas. Not one single driver was found, despite a generous trebling of terms to drive from Salang onto Mazar-I-Sharif. That trip had to be done by air. Mazar itself felt just as unsafe as Kabul. While I had assumed the high Tajik & Uzbek populations would hold back a “largely Pashtun” Taliban, that was simply not the case. The culture shock of having been too heavily Europeanised Uzbekistan and Tajikistan the previous year was particularly stark when contrasted with the local Uzbek and Tajik populations. This is where you begin to realise, that the Taliban while mostly Pashtun, is not entirely Pashtun and seemingly enjoys significant support. A generic (and a totally unscientific straw poll conducted at and around the mosque) revealed that an overwhelming number of the Tajik, Uzbek and female respondents, actively supported or were neutral towards the Taliban. When I questioned further if in any way the Taliban threatened their ethnic identity, the almost reflexive answer was “we are Muslim, they did trouble the Shia but they don’t interfere with us”. The Shia respondents seemed mixed. The ladies who had headcovers (very few) detested the Taliban but it also turned out they were urban educated Shia women. Almost all the Shia women in hijab merely gave me variations of “they are patriots; if they leave us alone we will support them; these days they don’t interfere with us”
It was at this point that my overall tour guide, a Hazara, whose brother had been tortured and killed by the Taliban in 2000, asked me in a bewildered way “why do you think there’s a distinction between Afghans and Taliban?” He vehemently insisted that I should stop viewing this from us versus them, Pashtun versus non-Pashtun lens. His own (very perspicacious) explanation was that being Taliban was a “mentality, not an ethnicity”. The drive to the ancient fort of Balkh – the final place where Zoroaster lived, where Alexander’s bride Roxanne was reputedly born, and destroyed several times including by Genghis Khan and Timur, was particularly revealing. While Balkh is considered a “safer province”, it clearly is not. Our drive to Balkh was intercepted by several Taliban checkpoints. While they self-identified as the Taliban, the only thing they were interested in was collecting road taxes. A stop at the historic Nau-Gumbad mosque, built on a Buddhist shrine, which in turn was built on a Zoroastrian one brought the first unplanned interaction with the Taliban. I was convinced at this point that things were going to go south – especially when for the only time during this trip I had guns pointed at me. However, the mention of the magic word “Hindustan” calmed things down quite significantly, and I was invited into the hut of the caretaker, a sad figure who had lost his entire family during the war.
On the grounds of the mosque, he grew his crop of hash, which I was required to smoke when chatting with the Taliban. I soon realised why, the stuff was potent and loosens the tongue significantly, almost as if it were a truth serum. The conversation mostly hinged around how much respect these men had for India, and how projects by India had helped their family members directly. Surprisingly to a man they detested Pakistan. On being asked why they were fighting the government, not one single answer had anything to do with a “national cause” or hatred of foreigners. Of the nine men present, three had a personal vendetta against a local government official, one was there because of a family loss (his brother had been killed in fighting), and the rest were there for “family reasons” mostly as having been promised for good and services rendered to the family and it was subtly suggested partially through threats as well.
Herat was possibly the only city where the “central business district” was almost entirely unguarded and bustling. There were a significant number of women with a head covering but refusing to wear the Hijab. Importantly the Shia are visible and assertive, prosperity is visible on the streets, and there is a pronounced cultural affinity more to Iran than say Kabul. However, a drive out of Herat towards Ghor and the fabled Minaret of Jam brought home the reality of how close the fighting actually was. Of particular interest to me to trace the roots of Muhammad Ghori, but within about 1 hour outside heart one could hear the distinct and unmistakeable din of gunfire, and about 1 hour away from the minaret of Jam a freshly charred car, with at least one corpse inside, convinced the driver, that the region was off-limits.
The impressive but dilapidated minarets of Herat Mosque
The road between Herat and Kandahar is so dangerous that again – no driver was willing to go there. Consequently, yet again a flight to Kandahar had to be taken. Kandahar was the exact opposite of Herat. A largely Pashtun city, outside the airport, (where IC 814 was hijacked to) – security was intense, the population was visibly hostile to such a degree that even mere requests to talk (and the realisation I was not an afghan), brought angry rebukes. The word “Hindustan” carries absolutely no magic here. The problem escalated rapidly – at an army check post we were informed that there was already radio chatter of an Indian in town and it was best if said Indian left. I was without delay deposited back at the airport thereafter. This was particularly problematic as I had two further meetings with higher Taliban officials lined up and necessitated staying longer than expected at Ghazni where some of the Taliban agreed to travel up to.
A short flight back to Kabul, we had to drive a day later to Ghazni. While I had intended for Ghazni to be a tourist stop, specifically to research Mehmud of Ghazni, the Taliban in Kandahar had warned me against making myself conspicuous and I had been sharply upbraided for attempting to interview locals in Kandahar as a dead giveaway. Consequently, photography and interviews in Ghazni were banned, as it turns out the city is more dangerous than Kandahar for visitors.
Author atop a destroyed soviet BTR outside the town of Ghazni
Ghazni is a truly grotesque city. It has not an iota of beauty and the architecture – military or religious is crude without any redeeming features. It was here in a particularly nasty safe house over the next 2 days that I met a variety of Taliban commanders. There was no verifying their identity or rank, except to take them at face value since their bona fides had been vouched for by Pakistani interlocutors. Yet surprisingly (and this was a theme throughout Afghanistan) there was nothing but pure undiluted hatred of Pakistan. Several claimed they had family in Pakistan – effectively hostages to ensure compliance and yet again the standard theme was that there was no “national cause” here. One particularly curious story was from someone touted as a local commander near the Dutch base in nearby Oruzgan but formerly operating in Gulistan. He was upfront about how they never attacked Italians as the local Italian commander was happy to pay him in cash and medicines, but that when he moved to Oruzgan, the Dutch deployment there refused to do any such thing. (Several Taliban interviewed in Nangarhar, Samaghan, Balkh and Nuristan related similar experiences). It was a vast accumulated set of personal vendettas and grievances tactfully exploited by Pakistan. Government control here is so loose that the Taliban felt safe setting up meetings here and I have no shame saying that the days I spent here were an absolute terror for me not knowing when I’d become “leverage”, so far away from any safety precautions I had taken.
With Sheikh Abdullah (formerly Baktreddin Kakhimov) a Soviet Military
Intelligence officer,who became Mujahidin after his capture in Herat
Gauging the Taliban – Myths and Reality
There are two distinct conflicts in Afghanistan. The first and possibly more deep-rooted, is the endemic rural-tribal vendettas pent up over years and intensified due to the lack of any form of central authority. The second conflict is Pakistan versus the rest conflict, where elements of the first conflict are successfully manipulated to serve Pakistani interests howsoever they are perceived in Islamabad. Indians must understand this clearly. While it does not serve to reduce the potency of Pakistan’s machinations – both the United States and India seem to have made grave errors in how they deal with this duality.
The United States’ primary error was that it decided to engage in “nation-building” imposing bizarre first world paradigms in what is essentially a feudal tribal confederacy – essentially a remnant of the Persianate gunpowder states sans any central authority. It doesn’t exactly take a genius to figure out within minutes of venturing outside Kabul, that dreams like women’s rights, free and fair elections, human rights etc. can only be imposed on the landscape by the extraordinarily foolish. Even rudimentary anthropology should have warned the United States that the only responsibility it had was to create a strong government and leave Afghanistan to its own devices. Europe itself took 300 painful years of social churn to reach where it is. For a loose tribal confederacy, this path would be much longer and more painful – especially after 40 years of unrelenting war which led to a conflict economy.
India for its part seems to have severely erred in its refusal to accept the “good Taliban – bad Taliban” formula. Pakistan has exploited the first conflict to arm and aid anyone willing to take up arms for whatever cause, and frequently agglomerate them into a large potent force capable of overrunning whole provinces. However, these remain fractious and riddled, with Pakistan exercising control only at the very top, through a mix of hostage-taking, carrots and sticks. Given the fluidity of the Taliban with the general rural population and the uniform hatred of Pakistan across the board – India is imposing artificially, binaries that are simply irrelevant or comical on the ground.
Afghanistan is doing what it has always been doing for centuries now. It is not a solvable problem, rather more of a manageable problem. The issue is the questions you ask and the preconceived notions you take seem to end up dictating policy more than ground realities – be it India or the United States. Pakistan does and will continue to exercise significant control over the top echelons of Afghanistan’s feudal strongmen, there is nothing that can be done about it. However, management of the problem dictates that India also exploit the notorious fickleness and duplicity of these feudal strongmen, rather than bunch them up into one consolidated “basket of deplorables”. Realistically, no Afghan state can have a monopoly on violence the way it is understood in modern parlance. But what can be achieved is an Afghan Central Authority – strong enough to prevent larger coordinated eruptions of violence, and to play divide and rule when such coordinated eruptions eventuate.
A large part of the Taliban can be partially pacified (as best as that term can be applied in such a situation) through engagement and that is what this paper deals with. This would also lead to a significant reduction/disruption in the command and control abilities of the Taliban high command. To conclude, India needs to get off its dogmatic high horse.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies. A Defence Economist, he appears regularly in print and on TV, is the author of two books and doing a PhD at Kings College London.
Taliban - A Mentality Not an Ethnicity: A Ground Report from Afghanistan - Chanakya Forum Chanakya Forum
India is progressing faster than any time before and has found a strong will to be a self reliant, responsible and resurgent nation, thus striving to achieve its former glory.
The US throws a “Hail Mary” pass at the Afghan peace process
Marvin G. Weinbaum
Director, Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies
The U.S., until recently a tireless promoter of peace talks in Doha, is now making an end run around the deadlocked inter-Afghan negotiations. With the whole peace process seemingly grinding down to defeat, U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad has presented a new game plan designed to keep reconciliation hopes alive. The eight-page document envisions an interim governing structure that would presumably pave the way to a permanent power-sharing arrangement between an array of Afghan political elites and Taliban senior leadership. To kick off the diplomatic effort, the U.S. has proposed holding a U.N.-sponsored conference in Turkey. Expected to attend along with the U.S. would be representatives from Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and India, whose deliberations would set the stage for Afghan government-led and Taliban delegations to negotiate their differences.
The U.S.-offered plan outlines an “Islamic Power-Sharing Government” that would serve until a new or amended constitution is drafted to replace the current legal framework. A cease-fire, while foreseen, is not made a prior condition. The document prescribes across the branches of government a sharing of responsibilities between the war’s opposing sides. The far-ranging document provides for commissions dedicated to managing several problematic issue areas, including the incorporation of Islamic jurisprudence, and refugee return and welfare, but not human rights.
Underlying the U.S. initiative is the belief that it is possible to replicate a Bonn-style international conference to create, as in 2001, the groundwork for an Afghan state. What this approach offers in hope, it lacks in practicality. The context is now very different. The conference, held in the wake of a Taliban rout, occurred in the absence of an Afghan state. Today, there is an elected constitutional government that would be replaced. A Taliban insurgency is threatening to impose its own form of government. We also forget that the Bonn conference was designed only for the victors and could not have succeeded if the combined efforts of the U.S., Russia, and Iran had not dragooned the several Afghan parties into reaching an agreement. But international goodwill toward Afghanistan that existed two decades is long gone, and all its neighbors are currently acting according to their hedging strategies. Above all, there is no evidence to suggest that the Taliban would be any more amenable to compromise on substantive issues if the negotiations were moved from Doha to some other location. From the time of destroyed Buddhas, the Taliban has proved indifferent to international pressures when set on its goals.
In any event, the U.S.-proposed steps toward forming an interim government may lead to a dead end. The ambitious initiative has already met with rejection by President Ashraf Ghani, who insists that only elections can bring a transfer of power. The Taliban’s senior command has shown its own skepticism and some countries are hesitant to commit. Failure of this new initiative, which is intended to provide cover for either a U.S. troop withdrawal or its delay, would only complicate an already difficult decision.
The article was co-authored by Jack Ryan and Ghasharib Shoukat, research assistants to Marvin Weinbaum.
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What an Afghan Peace Deal Could Look Like
The proxy nature of the Afghan conflict makes the quest for a lasting peace agreement difficult.
By Abbas Farasoo Mar 02, 2021
Kabul, Afghanistan © Danial.F16 / Shutterstock
In a recent interview with the BBC, President Ashraf Ghani insisted that the condition for peace in Afghanistan depends on the condition of the war. First, according to him, Afghan security forces need international support due to intensifying violence by armed groups, including the Taliban. Second, without addressing Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, the situation with the conflict will not change. “My message is those who provide sanctuaries to the Taliban should be talked very straight,” he said. “There’s so many fears of collapse into civil war.”
His message is for the Biden administration to have serious talks with officials in Pakistan, the Taliban’s main supporter. Ghani added that the only way he would leave the office to compromise for peace is via an election, while the Taliban does not yet recognize elections as a legitimate political mechanism. The Taliban want Ghani to resign and for Afghanistan’s political system to change back to their Islamic emirate of the 1990s or something similar to it.
The Doha Deal
Since the first round of the intra-Afghan peace talks in September 2020, violence in Afghanistan has intensified, while the negotiations resumed just last week after a two-month delay. The Doha deal, signed by the Taliban and the Trump administration early last year in Qatar, has failed to stop the violence in the country. Shortly after his inauguration in January 2021, US President Joe Biden launched a review of the Doha deal to determine whether the Taliban have upheld their commitments to cut ties with other militant groups and engage in meaningful peace talks with the Afghan government.
Pakistan has urged the Biden administration to “persevere” with the Doha agreement and not attempt to amend it. The deal gave the Taliban the upper hand and undermined the Afghan government. The agreement excluded the Afghan government and allowed the Taliban to gain legitimacy, while also mandating that US and NATO troops leave the country within 14 months if militants uphold their end of the bargain. For Pakistan, while this is a step in the “right direction” for peace talks, as per Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, it also enhanced the Taliban’s position and made regime change in Kabul a real possibility.
Although the war has a complicated domestic dimension, it is effectively a proxy conflict that Pakistan has waged against the Afghan government amidst perceived Indian influence in Afghanistan. From Pakistan’s point of view, Afghanistan has changed into an Indian playground and the Taliban are the only force that can secure Pakistani interests. As a result, the Afghan peace process also has a complicated regional dimension.
At the same time, the Taliban’s ideological system has proved to be inflexible for a democratic process that upholds citizens’ rights, leading to concerns about the Taliban seeking to build a new regime based on discrimination. Considering the strategic nature of proxy war, the history of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Taliban’s ideology, the following four scenarios are conceivable if the Biden administration underestimates the situation.
Scenario 1: A Civil War Without the Government
The Taliban insurgency has reduced the government’s territorial control, limiting it to urban cities and district centers. This has increased the likelihood of Taliban attacks on large cities.
In the first scenario, the Taliban would seek to conquer and control through violence, leading to the collapse of the government and a descent into all-out civil war. In such a situation, the ground is prepared for mass atrocities due to ethnic tension, poverty and the presence of other militias, such as the Islamic State-Khorasan, an affiliate of ISIS. Just imagine the war affecting cities like the capital Kabul with millions of people. Political crises are rife in Afghanistan, which would be exacerbated by the early withdrawal of NATO forces. Therefore, the pullout of foreign troops according to the Doha agreement’s timetable is a cause for alarm. Under the deal, all US and NATO troops are scheduled to leave the country by May 1.
This scenario is more likely to happen if the government is dismantled in the absence of a comprehensive peace agreement between the Afghan officials and the Taliban. There are growing calls for Ghani to step down to pave the way for an interim government that includes the Taliban. However, an interim administration without the presence of a peace deal — one that includes mechanisms to ensure it is upheld — is risky. Such a scenario makes it hard to keep the Afghan security forces united if another round of violence erupts under an interim administration. This would be especially the case if the international community does not have a strategy for securing such a fragile peace arrangement.
Scenario 2: A Civil War Despite the Government
Another danger is that the withdrawal of US and NATO forces will take place without a peace agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. In this scenario, the government would not completely collapse if it mobilizes anti-Taliban forces and receives foreign support, but violence would spread from rural areas to populated cities.
As a result, government officials would retreat to an area outside Kabul and continue their fight against militants as long as they have international recognition and receive support from foreign powers — possibly India, Russia and Iran. This situation is similar to what President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s government faced in the 1990s amidst an insurgency by Taliban militants. That administration withdrew from Kabul but continued its role in the conflict and retained international backing.
In the second scenario, the war takes on a local context, with violence in pockets around the country. In order to survive, the government would ally with local forces. The government would not have the ability to mount a viable challenge against the Taliban and other armed groups, and its role would largely be reduced to a symbolic one. At the same time, it would be extremely hard for the Taliban to conquer the whole country. Anti-Taliban forces — from the constituency of the old Northern Alliance — would still fight them.
Scenario 3: Parallel Balance With the Government
In the third scenario, the Taliban challenge the government through greater territorial control and contestation, but the government would not completely collapse. Instead, it would retain control of large cities and many other areas.
An example of a parallel balance is Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the Shia organization has both political and military wings. In practice, however, the Taliban have already achieved this by controlling 75 of 405 districts in Afghanistan and contested another 189. As soon as a ceasefire is reached, as per this scenario, the political landscape of some districts under Taliban control and others under government authority would be officially recognized.
Interestingly, both the government and the Taliban are not in favor of such a situation. The Taliban want complete control of Afghanistan, while the government wants the Taliban to be integrated into the current political system. Under this scenario, international assistance to the Afghan government could continue, but without Pakistan’s cooperation, nothing would change and the Taliban would push on with their insurgency. This scenario is likely if the US and other NATO members continue their support for the government.
Scenario 4: Maximum Balance From Within, But Without the Government
In the final scenario, military and political pressure is exerted on the government to accept a fragile peace agreement that meets the Taliban’s demands. The Taliban impose their type of political system, which gives them religious legitimacy and allows them to influence other political and social forces. A peace deal under the Taliban’s terms would enable them to eventually take over — or have the upper hand in — the legislature and the judiciary system. Besides, the Taliban are estimated to have tens of thousands of fighters and, under such a peace deal, they would either join the security forces or remain armed as parallel forces ready to take action, if necessary.
This scenario may seem like a soft conquest, but it could easily turn violent. The international community’s departure from Afghanistan and the unrealistic optimism about the Taliban’s ideological position and proxy relations may contribute to such a situation. Pakistan supports this version of a peace agreement to place the Taliban in Afghanistan’s polity to have a dominating position. This scenario is not acceptable for many people in Afghanistan and could create a fragile situation that would likely lead to violence at some point.
Moving Forward for a Durable Peace
A durable peace arrangement is only likely when both sides consider several key factors. These include what a possible peace agreement would look like, its implementation, what the future political system would involve and how citizens’ rights are ensured.
First, there is a need to put pressure on Pakistan to take action against Taliban sanctuaries inside that country. At the very least, Pakistan must ensure there is a reduction in violence and that the Taliban are flexible when it negotiates with the Afghan government. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine a sustainable peace in the context of a proxy war. At the same time, Afghanistan should be neutral when it comes to regional politics, and its future should not depend on the rivalry between India and Pakistan.
Second, a power-sharing process with the Taliban should be based on transparency. A peace agreement must be mutually agreed and include multiple stages of implementation and international monitoring. However, a power-sharing arrangement should be part of the peace agreement, not the other way around. The implementation of power-sharing before a peace agreement is highly risky and could lead to the collapse of the political order.
Third, citizens’ and women’s rights and democratic legitimacy should be the basis of the future political system. Otherwise, in a country as diverse as Afghanistan, sustainable peace is not possible.
Fourth, a political system that focuses on the separation of powers is necessary. Ensuring that political power is not concentrated in one party’s hands, such as the Taliban’s, would protect Afghanistan from the misuse of power.
Therefore, to ensure peace in Afghanistan and the responsible withdrawal of foreign troops, it is crucial for the Biden administration to consider the implication of the war’s proxy dynamics on peacemaking efforts. When it comes to the domestic context, without considering the country’s sociopolitical diversity and citizens’ rights, it would be extremely hard to think about lasting peace.
*[Correction: This article previously stated that the Afghan peace talks had been delayed by six months instead of two. Last updated on March 3, 2021.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.