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CWA # 33, 26 June 2018

South Asia
Afghan Peace: Reality or Illusion?

  Apoorva Sudhakar

It is not possible to end a war that has been going on for decades in three days. However, these three days may have instilled a feeling of unity and the need to end the war in the people, the government and even the Taliban.

Research Scholar, Department of International Studies, Stella Maris College, Chennai

The Ashraf Ghani government enforced a ten-day unilateral ceasefire on the Taliban with regard to the Eid celebrations. Since the previous attempts on peace talks were a failure, the Ghani government’s recent ceasefire was seen as pointless by other officials and the opposition.

Other countries too had apprehensions regarding the same but were appeased when social media was flooded with pictures of Afghan soldiers and Taliban members hugging each other and offering Ramadan prayers together. The Taliban had reciprocated the ceasefire! This was a first in 17 years, that is from 2001 when the group started fighting the foreign troops.

What did this mean for the Taliban? What was the larger objective of the government? And most of all, what did this mean for the general population?

The ceasefire: why now?

Over the past few months, the number of attacks and security forces casualties has been at a high. Nearly 200 security forces including police officers have been martyred by the Taliban every week over the last one year (Aljazeera).

Besides, loss in civilian lives, poverty, inefficient education system and other such socio-economic problems has affected the normalcy of lives in Afghanistan.

To sustain a government, it is necessary to address these problems. With the upcoming elections, it is necessary for the Ghani government to retain votes. With strong backup from the international community, including a US-Pak planned strategy, it is a ‘strike when the iron is hot’ opportunity for the government to implement a ceasefire. It is also a well-calculated move since not acknowledging the government’s peace attempt during the Holy month would be against the very principles of Taliban which claim to be a peace-loving organisation.

The Taliban take

The group decided to hold a truce which started three days before Eid. It came as a pleasant surprise to all since there was a deafening silence on their side when the government announced its unilateral ceasefire.

The Taliban decision to conduct the truce must have been framed out of the realisation that it needs public support to put down its foot. The ceasefire was massively supported by the public. Therefore, to get back in the game, it was necessary for the Taliban to acknowledge the government’s move.

This, however, does not mean an end to the conflict. The group’s spokesperson confirmed that the truce was observed in regard with the Eid festivities. The larger objective of the group, i.e. sending back foreign troops from the land remains the same. Therefore, at the end of the three-day truce, the group resorted back to carrying out its offensives.

A strong international wave towards peace?

The international community has always looked at Kabul with sympathy. Countries like India continue supporting Afghanistan through rough patches and it always stayed as a symbol of friendship between the two.

Recently, when the Imam of Harmain Sharifain offered prayers for peace and stability in Afghanistan, Kabul welcomed the gesture with open arms. The Saudi King also made it a point to state renewed support for reconciliation.

The US and NATO too were all praise for Ghani’s bold step. It was indeed just a matter of time before the political arena realised that peace in Afghanistan would be possible only by bringing the Taliban to the table. The ceasefire was a stepping stone to entering into negotiations and coming at a common ground between the government and the Taliban. For this, it was necessary for the Ghani government to step up and show its strength and not be a puppet government (of the US), as the Taliban sees it.

General response

Despite the offensive launched by the Taliban after the three-day truce, the government has high hopes that it will be a new start to possible peace talks. The response to the ceasefire, by the Taliban, was seen as a boost to initiate negotiations. The fact that the group gave up on their arms for the three days is an achievement for the government and for the people.

With the sight of the Taliban walking into the capital unarmed and socialising with the security forces and the residents, people saw a glimpse of a peaceful life. Hanif Atmar, the NSA of Afghanistan, reacted to this blissfulness saying that “foreign countries and their intelligence agencies have been keeping alive the flames of war in Afghanistan to reach their nefarious designs, and that Afghans under no circumstances want the war to continue.” (RT News)

On the other side, it is not possible to end a war that has been going on for decades in three days. However, these three days may have instilled a feeling of unity and the need to end the war in the people, the government and even the Taliban. The Afghans now live with a spark of optimism but only time can tell if the three-day paradise can soon become a reality or remain a faraway illusion.

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