By Mohammad Mazhari

Taliban are serious for peace talks: Pakistani analyst

August 6, 2021 - 11:9

TEHRAN - A member of an Islamabad-based think tank is of the opinion that the Taliban are serious for peace talks while the Afghan government is reluctant.

“The Taliban have been serious for dialogue and that is the reason why they signed a deal with the U.S.,” Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai, a senior research associate at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), tells the Tehran Times. 

Political observers say that the Taliban had capitalized on the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops from Afghanistan to launch a series of lightning offensives across the country.

The group is now believed to control roughly half of the nation’s 400 districts, several important border crossings, and has laid siege to a string of vital provincial capitals.

But questions remain over how much control the Taliban’s leaders have over commanders on the ground, and whether they will be able to convince them to abide by a potential agreement if signed. 

“However,” the Pakistani analyst claims “it is the Afghan government that doesn’t want any negotiations because it can lead to an end of their government.”

 “When the Doha accord was signed on February 29, 2020, the next day, Ashraf Ghani announced he would not release 5,000 Taliban prisoners which had been agreed in the Doha agreement,” he adds.
The U.S.-led military coalition has been on the ground in Afghanistan for two decades following an invasion that followed the September 11 attacks.

Fears are growing that Afghan forces will be overwhelmed without vital coalition air support, allowing for a complete Taliban military takeover or the start of a multi-sided civil war in a country awash with weapons following nearly four decades of fighting.

He says, “Though Ashraf Ghani was not a part of the Doha deal, his master, the U.S., was there and they had taken Ashraf Ghani on board. We all know Khalilzad was frequently visiting Kabul.” 

Zalmay Khalilzad, originally an Afghan national, has been acting as U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan. 

In remarks on Tuesday, Khalilzad said the Taliban are demanding “the lion’s share of power” in any political settlement.

“At this point, they are demanding that they take the lion’s share of power in the next government given the military situation as they see it,” Khalilzad told the Aspen Security Forum in an online conference, according to the euronews.com.

The analyst rules out the possibility of civil war in Afghanistan, saying it is only warlords fighting for domination.

“There could be no civil war but a war between the warlords for their domination of some areas,” Yousafzai argues. 

 “However, it is very difficult for them to hold on to the Taliban. Taliban have a psychological dominance over all the warlords in Afghanistan including the Ashraf Ghani government and that is the reason why any warlords could not have challenged the Taliban.”

Following is the text of the interview: 

Q:  How do you assess the Taliban's military advancements in the recent two months?

A: The Taliban’s recent advancements are part of their strategy where they have to put pressure on the international community on one hand and the Kabul administration on the other.

 If we look, the Taliban advancements did start once there was no progress in the Afghan talks. The Afghan government is just busy passing their time and is not serious about negotiations as they realize they can gain nothing in talks with the Taliban. 

The Taliban have almost surrounded Kabul at the moment. And this is a fact that they can attempt to take Kabul by force but they will not take it as they know there will be a harsh reaction from the international community and that will negatively affect their stature. The regional courtiers are now more active to play a role in a negotiated settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Q:  The Taliban claim to control approximately 90% of Afghanistan's borders with neighbors? Do you think these claims are real or just propaganda?

A: The Taliban do not control 90 percent of Afghanistan. However, they control a considerable part of Afghanistan that is why the Kabul administration is in extreme frustration. The Taliban have even control on the border with three neighbors: Central Asia, Iran and Pakistan and they collect taxes from transporters. 

A report from Voice of America recently claimed the Taliban are collecting quite less toll tax from transporters and they are happy from them. If the Afghan government were capable of wiping out the Taliban, they would have done it earlier where the NATO and U.S. forces were supporting them. The morale of the Afghan forces is very down and they either surrender to the Taliban or quit their jobs. A week before, 46 Afghan soldiers took refuge in Pakistan where they were encircled by the Taliban. And then Pakistan safely handed them over to the Afghan authorities.

Q: Do you think regional initiatives like the Astana group can be viable when it comes to Afghanistan?

A: The Afghanistan issue is very complicated and only an international initiative and organization cannot resolve it. It can be resolved by those who have leverage over the power centers in Afghanistan. The U.S., Pakistan, regional countries and Russia could have a wider role in the peaceful settlement of the Afghanistan crisis.

Q: How do the people in Afghanistan and Pakistan look at the U.S. troop pullout?

A: The U.S. withdrawal as many people believe is not good for Afghanistan, especially the Afghans who believe the U.S. will always protect them.

How ironic this approach is? The conflict in Afghanistan was due to the U.S. invasion in 2001 but now Washington is withdrawing from the country to show a sense of responsibility.

Now Afghanistan’s peace is at risk. If the Afghan government becomes serious, which doesn’t seem to happen, a settlement could be reached soon.

Q: Is the Taliban ready to be seriously involved in talks or there will be a full-blown civil war?

A: The Taliban have been serious for dialogue that was the reason they signed a deal with the U.S. However, it is the Afghan government that doesn’t want any negotiations because it can lead to an end of their government. When the Doha accord was signed on February 29, 2020, the next day, Ashraf Ghani announced he would not release 5,000 Taliban prisoners which had been agreed in the Doha agreement.

 Though Ashraf Ghani was not a part of the Doha deal, his master, the U.S., was there and they had taken Ashraf Ghani on board. We all know, Khalilzad was frequently visiting Kabul. There could be no civil war but a war between the warlords for their domination of some areas.

 However, it is very difficult for them to hold on to the Taliban. Taliban has a psychological dominance over all the warlords in Afghanistan including the Ashraf Ghani government and that is the reason why any warlords could not have challenged the Taliban.  
 

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