The Negotiations Between The United States And Taliban

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Terrorism in Afghanistan has been long understood as a result of foreign occupation of the land by the foreign troops. It has been a direct, or indirect, result of United States military intervention in the country, termed as ‘Graveyard of Empires.’ More recently, the United States and Taliban have realized that there is no military solution to Afghanistan’s conundrum. Instead, a suitable diplomatic and sane approach is preferred by the two parties. Yet, the political leadership at both sides of the spectrum refuses to give in to the other’s interests and the sporadic terror attacks and civilian casualties’ number in Afghanistan keeps rising and there is no end to this crisis in the near future. To ensure a stable peace negotiation and prevent ceasefire violations, the two sides need to take each other into confidence by establishing a certain threshold of trust. Only then can the acts of terrorism and ceasefire violations can be prevented, if not stopped in their entirety. In addition to this, modern warfare of the post 9/11 world demands that the US government take a full picture of the situation at hand by equating the Taliban as a genuine political entity in the whole negotiating process. By accepting the fact that violence is the only weapon of terrorists, a new approach in combating terrorism and ceasefire violations need to be developed. Thus, the Taliban’s leverage of using violence and ceasefire violations to get an equal footing in the negotiating process can be undermined only by developing an all-inclusive counter-terrorism and cease-fire agreement.

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The Taliban of today has transformed itself from a small terrorist group into one of the challenging insurgent group to the United States. The assumption that the Taliban will behave responsibly once they cease their militancy mostly supports the ongoing U.S.-Taliban ceasefire negotiations. But trusting the pledges the Taliban give is based on little foreseeable enforcing mechanism. Taliban’s use of violent terror attacks and continuing cease-fire violations come from the realization that it holds great leverage on their part while negotiating with the United States. They can bring this leverage on the table in dealing with the United States. True. Indeed, conflicts are fought within a magnificent arena. The contemporary challenge of maintaining the ceasefire and enforcing counter-terrorism agreement in US-Taliban peace talks underpin this magnificent arena.

Post 9/11 world saw a new kind of warfare. It differs fundamentally from the wars in the past in that it doesn’t guarantee any victory. Warfare has now become an interlocking system of actions with varying scopes and a wide array of dimensions attributed to it. This ‘war on terror’ has seen many ups and downs. From sending in a joint military alliance (NATO) to subvert Afghanistan’s political system to the use of ‘pressure’ tactics to bring Taliban to knees, some have failed some have succeeded. Quite often, journalists’ policy-makers and social scientists are also seen as taking up the task of ensuring a durable peace settlement and ceasefire in Afghanistan. But, not everything done generates the desired result. Dealing with Afghanistan with a more open approach and building trust element with the Taliban might give the negotiations the diplomatic prestige the United States needs to buttress an honorable exit — something both the Americans and the Taliban want. And this would demonstrate to the world that ‘war on terror’ ended only after meeting its objective of making sure the subdued al Qaeda group and other global jihadist militants will not re-emerge in Afghanistan.

The US-Taliban negotiations might not be a Saigon moment for the former, but it is surely following the right direction in ensuring ceasefire and preventing further terrorism-related attacks within, and beyond, Afghanistan’s borders. It may bury the prospects of the cause for which Osama Bin Laden fought in his life. This doesn’t mean that Bin Laden has reached no audience in disseminating its ideology. But the negotiations have opened the way for an alternate sphere of agreements where the future of Afghanistan doesn’t look so grim. The negotiations can usher in a psychological transformation in the minds of Afghanistan’s people and can inculcate a new outlook of life by altering their world-view, just as Arab minds were changed in the mid-20th-century middle-east. As a matter of fact, the people of Afghanistan take their fight against foreign invaders as the basis of their religious ideology.

Apart from cease-fire violations, more alarming is the escalation in terrorist attacks by the militant Islamic State group whereby it is sending a clear message that it could play the spoiler in any peace agreement. The group has established its stranglehold in the power vacuum left by the United States’ troops. Recently, the terrorist group that has a significant presence in parts of Afghanistan carried out a suicide bomb attack on a wedding celebration in Kabul, killing several dozen people. It was among the most horrific attacks in Afghanistan claimed by the group since it first established a foothold in the eastern part of the country. 

American officials are hopeful that the level of violence could be brought down after the agreement is concluded. Creating and developing an inclusive and participatory approach by bringing all the stakeholders, such as Afghan’s ethnic minorities, to the negotiable table can ensure that the people view the US settlement process as a just cause. Thus, one needs to study terrorism and its underlying causes, because it can neither be ignored nor minimized. Various policy-makers and journalists should examine and realize the enormous risks associated with the terrorism perpetrated in the political and social arenas. In this context, the root causes of ISIS in sabotaging the US-Taliban negotiations process and carrying out the terror attacks need to be examined in their entirety. This may provide the US and Taliban with the full picture of the context in which they are dealing with each other. 

16 August 2021

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