Peace Process Update: Sep 30
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Intra-Afghan talks begin, negotiating teams struggle to advance talks as Taliban insurgents intensify violent attacks
On September 12th, after months of delays, GIRoA and Taliban insurgents began direct peace talks in Doha, Qatar. The opening speeches by both negotiating teams laid bare the stark reality that deep divisions remain on several fundamental issues including the preconditions for a cease-fire, and the makeup of a post-peace agreement government. The GIRoA negotiating team called for an immediate cease-fire as the first step of the talks. The Taliban insurgents rebuffed this demand and countered that a cease fire can only happen after the two sides come to terms on a peace agreement.
In statements on social media and to reporters in Doha the Taliban insurgents have indicated that they see themselves as victorious in their war against the U.S., and do not see a need to cede much if any ground in the intra-Afghan talks. Further, the Taliban insurgents do not recognize GIRoA as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, and consider the negotiating team to be private Afghan citizens rather than representatives of GIRoA’s negotiating team. Meanwhile, the Taliban insurgents have stepped up the number of deadly attacks across at least 20 Afghan provinces, and the capital, Kabul. According to a United Nations report, the level of violence in the past five weeks alone has been the highest in the last five years.
Though the Taliban insurgents continue to use bloodshed as a tactic for securing political concessions, in Doha the talks have stalemated as the two sides struggle to agree on the rules to govern the talks. Two divisive issues remain. First, the Taliban insurgents insist that the Hanafi school of Islamic thought should be the governing rule. The GIRoA negotiating team opposes this demand on the grounds that the Taliban has used the Hanafi school of Islamic thought in the past to justify the persecution of religious minorities in Afghanistan, and will attempt to use it again during these negotiations to exclude minority groups from participation in government, particularly the Hazara ethnic group that is predominantly Shiite. The second sticking point between the two sides is the Taliban insurgency's desire to use its peace treaty with the U.S. government, signed earlier this year, as the basis for peace talks with GIRoA. The implication here is that if the U.S. doesn’t abide by the agreement, then the Taliban insurgents will not be obliged to continue talks with the Afghan government. For it’s part, GIRoA, which was not a party to the U.S.-Taliban treaty, has countered with a proposal for the Taliban insurgents to adhere to a joint Afghan-U.S. declaration from earlier this year that makes a commitment to negotiation and permanent ceasefire a prerequisite for a peace deal.