GP Insights

GP Insights # 234, 27 January 2020

Afghanistan: Ashraf Ghani's apprehensions on Taliban's engagement with peace
Amal Anzari

In the news
“No Afghan woman, as long as I am alive and in the position of responsibility, is going to be subject to gender apartheid. Afghan society has changed. Are the Taliban sufficiently ready to engage?" asked Ashraf Ghani, the Afghanistan President on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum held at Davos, Switzerland.

Ghani also stated that five years ago there were over 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, 100,000 were Americans, and there were rumors that the country would collapse once the foreign forces withdrew. However, he said, all the predictions proved false and Afghanistan survived and is making progress today. “The Afghan security forces have emerged to a significant force, our commandos are second to none in the region, our air force is tripled, our commandos and Special Forces have doubled. We have taken eight districts back from the Taliban,” he said. Ghani had previously stated that the Afghan security forces also dealt major blows to the Daesh insurgents in the eastern parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the White House released a statement stating that the US President told Ghani that there cannot be meaningful negotiations until the Taliban significantly reduces its violence. “Negotiation with the Taliban is a means. The Afghan people desire to see the end of the violence. If the Taliban is ready to end the violence, the Afghan society is ready to reintegrate them,” said Ghani.

Issues at large
First, the question of the ceasefire. Taliban control over roughly half of Afghanistan and continue to stage regular attacks targeting Afghan and US forces. This has been ongoing even as they hold peace talks with the US. According to a Taliban spokesperson, the reconvened peace talks between the US and the Taliban are progressing. The Afghan government still insists on a ceasefire. The eventual withdrawal of the US forces has been one of the strongest leverage American negotiators have in talks with the Taliban to end the 18-year war. 

Second, is the presence of the US troops. There has been a gradual reduction in American troops in Afghanistan in 2019, despite the absence of a settlement emerging from peace negotiations in Doha between American officials and the Taliban.

Third, the inclusion of the Afghan government in the peace talks between the US and the Taliban, Since the talks excluded the Afghan Government, President Ghani has been a vocal critic of the negotiations between the two without the Afghan government.

Fourth, a vague commitment by the Taliban. During the recent weeks, the Taliban came to the negotiating table with an offer of a brief period of “violence reduction,” a non-specific phrase that officials say could amount to holding back attacks on major cities and highways.

In perspective
First, reaching a peace agreement required looking beyond past grievances and thoughts of revenge. According to Agha Jan Motasim, who was the finance minister during the Taliban government, all sides of the conflict, including the Taliban made mistakes. The signing of the American- Taliban deal would open the way for negotiations between the insurgents and other Afghans, including Ghani’s government, over power-sharing.

Second, President Ghani’s government has insisted on pushing the Taliban for nothing short of a cease-fire to show that the insurgents are genuine about peace and negotiating a shared political future, saying that a “reduction of violence” is meaningless. Both have to find a way to reach an understanding on the idea of a ceasefire and implement the same in the ground. 

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