The Taliban have jeopardized the opportunity for peace with their miscalculations. The group was repeatedly warned to reduce the level of violence but they did not take it seriously. Their close ties to terrorist groups have been repeatedly reported but the group only denied these connections. They were invited to take a flexible stance, but the group, however, did not accept, and now it is widely thought that the opportunity for peace has been missed because of the current situation.
The current opportunity for peace arose from the signing of the Doha Agreement on February 29 last year. This opportunity was the result of about seventeen months of negotiations between US representatives and the Taliban, and was hailed as a golden and exceptional opportunity for peace in Afghanistan. The current situation, however, belies such hopes and expectations.
According to a recent Pentagon assessment, the Taliban did not adhere to the Doha agreement in at least two cases. The department said the Taliban had not yet severed ties with al-Qaeda and were not committed to reducing violence. For this reason, the Pentagon has warned that if the Taliban does not commit to severing ties with terrorism and reducing violence, there will be no possibility of negotiations.
The simplest message of this warning is that the Taliban’s failure to fulfill commitments such as reducing violence and severing ties with terrorism has jeopardized the opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan. And if the Taliban continues to shirk its commitments, the United States will have to resort to a non-negotiable option. According to this warning, the possibility of a unilateral withdrawal of the United States from this agreement is also a possibility. This is a dire warning, which the Taliban should take seriously.
The Taliban, however, has taken a very inflexible position at the negotiating table with the Afghan government. This inflexibility has prevented months of intra-Afghan negotiations from reaching a promising point.
As the violence continues, the Taliban has forced the government to prepare for a new war with the group. This war the coming spring in its most intense form will be key. The government is still in an aggressive position. More facilities are set to be used to suppress the Taliban in the spring.
The escalation of violence is a clear sign of a stalemate in peace efforts. The Taliban sought political concessions as violence escalated to its highest level. The violence, however, backfired on the Taliban and pushed the talks to a standstill. The talks have now reached a point where the possibility of revising the Doha Agreement has become an option.
The Taliban are currently in a quagmire. The group intends to get out of this situation by making new trips to Tehran and Moscow. Their perception is that the group leaders’ visits to the two rival US countries could stop the Doha Agreement from being reviewed. But this goal will not be achieved due to the mistakes made by the group. The Taliban delegation’s visits to Tehran and Moscow are expected to change the US’ planned dealings with the group. These changes will likely eliminate the Taliban’s existing chances of gaining and negotiating. This means the reduced stature of a militant group that had a more privileged position vis- à-vis the Afghan government under the Doha Agreement.
The Taliban must accept that their negotiation tactics are doomed to failure and they can only be part of Afghanistan’s future by showing flexibility. The Taliban’s links to terrorist groups pose a serious threat to the group’s agreements with the United States. The use of violence for political extortion is also a completely wrong approach. Especially in a situation where the other side is in a superior position in terms of military power and has international support. Neither will the Taliban get what they want by traveling to Tehran and Moscow. This can only increase the cost of war and peace and complicate the situation in both areas. The current opportunity for peace, however, will be maintained only when the Taliban enter into principled negotiations and abandon their unrealistic dreams for the future. Otherwise, the opportunity for peace will be wasted and war will continue to take its toll on the people.