By: Jawad Sadiq Fitrat
In the recently held crucial rounds of peace talks in Doha, Qatar this month between Taliban negotiators and the US authorities represented by plenipotentiary former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, a consensus was developed on reducing the volume of Taliban-led violence in Afghanistan. Both the negotiating parties agreed that the rounds of peace talks must continue without halt unless a meaningful conclusion is drawn.
The talks in Doha are likely to culminate soon, as the central point of talks apparently remained reduction of violence by Taliban, which include a halt on attacks against major urban centers and major connectivity highways. The observers in Doha, however, could not hear any word about a full-scale cessation of hostilities by both the parties i.e. Taliban and the US.
Taliban’s offer of Reduction in Violence (RIV) merits a detailed analysis so that the actual line of thinking behind it could be understood. If translated, RIV means lowering the scale of attacks on major urban centers in Afghanistan and allowing major highways used unhindered, Afghan commuters and security forces. RIV also implies that the US acknowledges Taliban as a legitimate force, the members of which have taken up arms against foreign occupied forces notably the United States. In addition to this, another implication is concerning the ineffectiveness of ANDSF in its fight against Taliban in Afghanistan.
ANDSF casualty rate continues to be high since the inception of insurgency. SIGAR Reports frequently highlight this aspect while underscoring the extent of civil casualties in Afghanistan. It is indeed a matter of concern for the Afghan government and the donors that despite spending billions of dollars in form of aid in various sectors in Afghanistan including security, the performance of ANDSF remains a question mark.
The fundamental difference that needs to be understood is that Taliban have offered a reduction in their violent activities against foreign occupied forces and the Afghan govt, not a complete cessation of hostilities. Taliban appear to be not in a position to halt their attacks against Afghan govt and NATO forces as doing so would result in loss of vital grounds that they as a group have occupied now.
In the first place, it is not an easy decision to be implemented among the fighting cadres of Taliban. The weapons with which Taliban are fighting are not hi tech and sophisticated but conventional and less modern, however, their ideological orientation is structured on sound religious beliefs. An ordinary Talib fighter does not see reduction in violence as a charming phrase when he compares it to a fanciful thought of martyrdom in a battle against the foreign occupation forces. For a negotiating Talib leader, who is a member of Taliban’s political team, reduction in violence is an alternate strategy, unmatched though with the term ceasefire. Thus, the Taliban’s political team has no suitable alternative than reduction in violence which qualifies the political team’s genuine assertions of cessation of hostilities once their principle demands are settled.
Taliban’s offer of RIV is certainly not without some defects; it appears to be open-ended having no specific time-frame which makes it difficult to be counted upon being pragmatic. The absence of any time-frame renders RIV as much elusive as anything. Then, the RIV is not supported by the national security establishment of Afghanistan. More so, Ashraf Ghani is abhorring to Taliban’s RIV offer. In-fact, Afghan govt believes that the Taliban do not have the capacity and moral courage to declare ceasefire with achieving anything meaningful and pragmatic from the Americans. Thus, the Afghan government’s push is on ceasefire, not RIV.
Another fundamental defect of RIV lies in the determination of areas where Taliban would scale down their attacks – which areas? The internal divide among Taliban rank and file on the key issue of ceasefire or cessation of hostilities is itself a fault-line.
Taliban’s political team is determined to find answers to key questions to keep continue their smooth sail with the US. Regional influential players such Pakistan and Iran, apart from Russia and China, would be instrumental in warding off any tempests being created in the cup of tea by the spoilers of Afghan peace process. The present construct of Administration in Kabul seems to be a careful handiwork of proxy powers to keep the spinning wheel of recon and violence in a swing. However, they must know that violence is a special privilege and leverage with Taliban which they use when they see that their existence is at stake. The US is aware of this fact.
Analysing Taliban’s Reduction in Violence Offer in Afghanistan
By: Jawad Sadiq Fitrat