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Reassessing Peace Process in Afghanistan
Gaurav Kumar
2018-08-19
Region : Asia, Afghanistan,
Issue : Security, Terrorism, Politics,
The High Peace Council (HPC), the Afghanistan Ulema Council (AUC), the Grand National Council of Jihadi Leaders and Afghan Women’s Association has urged the government and the Taliban to agree on a truce during the upcoming Eid-ul-Adha holidays. The urge has come despite extraordinary spectrum of violence unleashed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the last few weeks. The unprecedented level of violence orchestrated by the Taliban has set the debate rolling whether the Taliban are at all amicable forces and the international community can sustain its current lackadaisical policy of engaging the Taliban at the peace table. The enormity of barbarism and violence let loosed by the Taliban is comparable to pre-2001 Taliban era. With enormous loss of territory to the Taliban on the one hand and loss of life of security forces and civilians reaching its all time high on the other hand has rendered escape from the debate impossible. The Afghan government and the US who were spearheading the process for dialogue with the Taliban are on the back foot.
On 15 August 2018, the Taliban forces carried out attacks on two units of Afghan forces in the Baghlan-e-Markazi District of Baghlan Province. In a five hour battle, the Taliban overran an Afghan Army base and a police checkpoint, killing 39 army men and police officers. Another suicide bomber in the capital killed at least 48 people in a classroom. It was the second major attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan within a week. Earlier, the Taliban killed or captured an entire company of 106 soldiers in the Ghormach District of Faryab Province. The most devastating attack was carried out in the city of Ghazni where the Taliban seized lasted for 5 days before it was recaptured by the Afghan forces. The battle with the Taliban in Ghazni killed at least 100 members of Afghan security forces and 35 civilians, the actual number of killed might be above the official version. The Afghan forces claim to have killed nearly 400 Taliban forces, among which it claims 75 being Pakistani nations.
The humiliating seizure of cities after cities and the immense loss of life of the security forces have inevitably injected sense of despair and hopelessness among forces, compounded by the loss of legitimacy of the government over its ill thought peace process. Above all the swift and successful operations by the Taliban have opened the Pandora box for the government and the security forces which had no clue or were in illusion about the strength, motive and the strategic thinking of the Taliban.
The recently orchestrated violence shows the preparedness of the Taliban, which most probably were able to utilise the ceasefire period to sharpen and accelerate its operational activities at ground level; whereas the government as well as international community was engaged in building castles in the air about prospective peace talks with the Taliban. It is pertinent to remember the dichotomy between the Taliban’s responses to the three day Eid ceasefire when it agreed to halt attacks over the Muslim Eid holiday in the middle of June, but excluded the foreign forces from its ceasefire ambit, simply underlining its continued policy of violence albeit directed towards a limited number of adversaries. In a bizarre manner, later it proclaimed that the nationwide success of the ceasefire proved its popularity among the masses. The success also echoed its demand for foreigner’s free Afghanistan. The Taliban statement said, “The announcement (of the ceasefire), implementation and the wide national support and welcome of the Mujahideen by the people proves that the demands of the Islamic Emirate and the nation are identical – all want the withdrawal of foreign invaders and establishment of an Islamic government.” Amarullah Saleh, a former head of the National Directorate of Security had termed the ceasefire a grave mistake by allowing Taliban fighters to enter government-controlled areas. The ill conceived plan created fertile ground for the germination of the current state of chaos. If anything, the surge in the violence was aimed to mortify the self assured hubris of peaceniks.
This is not to say that talks and negotiations don’t have any role in the Afghan theater of conflict. It is perfectly legitimate for the government to make peace overtures, but it has to be within the realm of adaptable and configurable conflict resolution. The current approach of the government which is non linear and lacks the coherence of a framework shows the despondency among the policy makers, which inevitably makes it weak and ineffective. The fundamentals of the conflict resolution, with historical empirical evidences suggest that the one who holds the power is at advantage and is able to extract maximum benefits out of the negotiation. Surprisingly, the government started to beat the drum of peace talks when it was relatively weaker and politically unstable, suggesting unpreparedness on its side for a composite dialogue for peace process. The government, therefore, must bear in mind what Dr Ajai Sahni had to say on the peace processes in Kashmir that were propped up by international community without any significant analysis of ground reality “…It is clear that an unrealistic pursuit of peace can only defer violence, and often magnifies it. The notion of ‘peace at all costs’ is self-destructive, and negotiations based on false premises and projections, and on unrealistic or divergent assessments of realities on the ground, inevitably result in greater escalation – though they may produce a temporary and deceptive lull.”

End Notes
Rahim, Najim, and Fahim Abed. "Taliban Attack Second Afghan Army Base in 3 Days, Killing Dozens." The New York Times. August 15, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/world/asia/afghanistan-base-attack-taliban.html
Jain, Rupam. "Afghan Taliban Say Eid Ceasefire Proved 'wide National Support'." Reuters. June 17, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2018. https://in.reuters.com/article/afghanistan-taliban/afghan-taliban-say-eid-ceasefire-proved-wide-national-support-idINKBN1JD038
"Taliban Militants Roam Afghan Cities at Will as Truce with Security Forces Nears End." Https://www.hindustantimes.com/. June 17, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2018. https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-militants-roam-afghan-cities-at-will-as-truce-with-security-forces-nears-end/story-2uXbw2IJWBJQEJcmmEgqsN.html
Sahni, Ajai. "The J&K ‘Peace Process’ Chasing the Chimera K.P.S. Gill & Ajai Sahni*." South Asia Terrorism Portal. Accessed August 19, 2018. http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/publication/faultlines/volume8/article1.htm

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