Round Table Discussion on the Fallacy of the Peace Process in Afghanistan
Dr. Omar Sadr speaks at the National Security Think
Sadr, Senior Researcher at the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS),
conducted a public lecture on the ‘Fallacy of the Afghan Peace Process,’ based
on his publication with the AISS on 16 January. The participants included
members of the military and distinguished academics.
The author began his discussion with a brief
history of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The author mentioned how in the
aftermath of the US intervention of Afghanistan in 2001, the US and Afghan
Governments had different strategies in dealing with the entity.
While in the aftermath of 9/11 the Bush
administration took a more hardline militaristic stance, the Karzai
administration took a decidedly softer approach by calling the Taliban
“disadvantaged,” and forged secret contacts with the military group.
By 2007, the author mentioned that fighting had
come to a stalemate and that the US and Afghan Government looked to negotiate
with the Taliban.
In line with this, the United States laid out
three principles for negotiations including: insurgents should accept
constitutional order as framework, renounce violence and renounce affiliation
with international terrorist groups.
Different types of talks
The speaker mentioned that there had been
different types of talks with the Taliban in order to achieve these objectives.
One type of talks was high-level talks. These talks comprised negotiations
between the Afghan and US governments with the Taliban. A second approach has
been ‘talks for talks’ mandated High Consul of Peace. The purpose of these
talks had been to serve as a precursor to more formal negotiations. A third
approach was known as the reintegration of low level Taliban rank and file.
This entailed economic incentives for low Taliban operatives to defect. The
speaker mentioned that all these three approaches had failed because the
Taliban rank and file had largely maintained a very hardline ideology.
A fourth approach has been track 2 efforts by
research think tanks. These talks had been more effective in ascertaining the
nature, stance and demands of Taliban. A fifth type of talks had been local
peace deals with individual Taliban units at regional levels. These talks had
not led to a tangible outcome since the rank and file of the Taliban have
largely refused to compromise.
Different proposals offered
The speaker also outlined the different
proposals offered to the Taliban during the course of the talks.
These include Ashraf Gani’s peace proposal in
2017 for the Taliban to renounce violence and establish a new political party
and Hamid Karzai’s offer for the Taliban to join the Afghan government at an
Other offers the speaker spoke of included
settlement for the Taliban in exchange of rights and democracy. However, the
author mentioned that all of these proposals were rejected by the Taliban.
What the Taliban wants
The Taliban rejected the peace overtures by the
Afghan Government because its demands were incompatible with the interests of
the US and Afghan Governments. The speaker mentioned that the Taliban wanted a
withdrawal of international troops, which the US may have been willing to
The speaker also mentioned that the Taliban
wanted to transform Afghanistan’s existing constitutional system in order to
reflect its own ideology and interests. At present, they will not even
negotiate with the Afghan Government. This indicates that the goal of peace is
a “fallacy” because the Taliban is unwilling to give up extremism and adhere to
a constitution that is accepting of democracy and pluralism.
Perception of attitudes of people
The speaker also spoke of measuring public
attitudes to the peace process. From a survey carried out among over 2,000
people, he made the following points.
Regarding cognitive orientation (knowledge of different
aspects of peace process,) Afghans do not know much about the peace process,
such as the stance of the Taliban or the stance of the US. When it comes to
governance of Afghanistan awareness is slightly higher.
Regarding effective orientation (how they feel
about the process), most Afghans have negative views of the Taliban, and
believe that they are associated with Al Qaeda and ISIS. In addition, very few
people hold the Taliban to be legitimate due to ties with Al Qaeda and
Notably, over 60% of the population feel that
the peace process has failed due to a combination of weak governance, negative
influences by neighbouring countries, lack of transparency in institutions, and
the unwillingness of the Taliban to give up their extremist terrorist ideology.
Consequently, many people have become resigned to the failure of the peace
Finally, the author notes that the majority of
the Afghan people wants peace, and is willing to compromise in terms of
providing amnesty or power sharing. However, they are not willing to live under
the Taliban’s ideology, and amend the Constitution to that effect. Another
important detail is that the Pashtun ethnic group is more likely to hold
favourable views about the Taliban compared to other ethnic groups.