As a teenager who has grown up after the Taliban’s regime, I have had only limited experience with how the country was run during the late 1990’s. There are a lot of Afghans out there, however, who have nightmares and clearly remember the day-to-day life of Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Were you to ask those Afghans who had to suffer the horrific rule of the Taliban’s regime whether they supported peace talks with the Taliban, their answer would undoubtedly be a definitive “No.” Simply put, those people who say “No” to the peace talks don’t want to face a reality where a Taliban leader could be in the Afghan cabinet of ministers, or in any other position of power in the government.
So why is the Afghan government pushing for peace talks with the Taliban, a very clearly identified terrorist group, and aren’t the Taliban against the very idea and concept of democracy?
In recent years, there has been a ray of hope for the Afghan government that the Taliban would come to the negotiating table and talk peace. As such, the Afghan government, in a recent push, has moved forward to include Pakistan, China and the United States in the so-called peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
On July 7th, 2015, the first round of peace talks began in Pakistan. Rumors were circulating that the Taliban’s infamous leader Mullah Omar had died; the allegation, however, was flatly denied by Taliban authorities. Come late July, after much speculation by Afghan officials, it was confirmed that Mullah Omar had died on April 23rd, 2013, in a Pakistani hospital.
Exactly one month later, after the first round of peace talks in Pakistan, several suicide attacks rocked Kabul, leaving more than a hundred civilians injured and many dead. How can the officials in the Afghan government push for peace talks when the Taliban commit such horrific acts? It seems as though the Afghan government is bowing to the terms of the Taliban. The Afghan government has to show strength and power in such matters, not let such acts go unnoticed. While Arg, the Afghan presidential palace, has often said that they will not back down from any of the terms placed on the negotiation table, it’s clear that they don’t hold a position of power if they are willing to compromise human rights to establish peace.
The Taliban may be disorganized now more than ever after the death of Mullah Omar, but it is unlikely that his death will weaken Taliban operations. The Taliban can just replace Mullah Omar with someone else and everything will be the same; the extremism will not die with Omar. The presence of the Islamic State (ISIS) in eastern as well as northern areas of Afghanistan has also somehow helped the Taliban gain more territories. The Taliban always benefit when there are more insurgency and extremist groups.
Peace talks will only work if the Afghan government puts itself in the position of power and makes it clear that if the Taliban do not comply with the terms of a peace agreement, they will be obliterated. The government can secure the upper hand if the Afghan national security forces attack the Taliban on their outposts, going on the offensive, and destroying Taliban safe havens, most of which are in Pakistan.
This is not the Afghan government’s first attempt at conducting peace talks, however, and previous attempts have ended in disappointment. The Taliban has time and time again proven that they simply cannot be trusted. I hope the Afghan politicians realize that there is a lesson to be learned here.
Esmat Zeerak: blogger, resident of Kabul, Afghanistan.