Negotiation without Ceasefire is a Waste of Time

Ever since the Taliban and the Americans agreed on the two central themes of “withdrawing troops and ensuring the severance of ties between the Taliban and other terrorist groups,” it was clear that peace would be difficult without some other key elements. The Afghan peace process is one that, at least so far, lacks balance in terms of its driving themes.

The United States, as the mediator and key player in Afghanistan in recent years, must take responsibility for part of the failure of the peace talks so far. One of the key questions during US negotiations with the Taliban is whether the withdrawal of US troops should have been a priority, rather than a ceasefire. We now understand that in terms of precedence, the ceasefire should have been at the beginning of the negotiations.

It was clear from the outset that the peace process could lead to an escalation in violence, as disagreements over violence reduction or a ceasefire as a precondition could actually motivate participants to use violence to try to take control of more areas. What’s more, when negotiations reach an important point, these parties could use power combined with violence to gain an upper hand in achieving their demands in delicate situations.

At present, the Afghan peace talks have entered exactly this stage, and 40 days after the official opening of the talks, the negotiating delegations of the government and the Taliban have not even been able to agree on the negotiation procedure. Both sides have increased the threat of war in different parts of the country. Without a doubt, the goal of both sides is to have the upper hand in the Doha talks. In the meantime, many military personnel and civilians continue to fall victim to the existing political goals. The sacrifice of civilians for the political ends of the parties involved is a real example of human rights violations. However, a greater share of the responsibility lies with the Taliban. The Taliban have so far unilaterally blocked the ceasefire, rejecting repeated requests from the Afghan government in this regard.

Therefore, if the two sides are to reach a favorable outcome, taking the peace process to a successful conclusion, this would not be possible without a ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. But it is also clear that demanding a ceasefire from the Taliban is unlikely to be received positively, as the Taliban’s main tool is war, and it is precisely their reliance on war that gives them political legitimacy. Another unavoidable fact is that the continued existence of war takes the possibility of concluding any kind of negotiations to zero.

Preliminary meetings are aimed more at stopping the war and bringing the parties to the conflict closer to an understanding on common ground. A ceasefire will be the prelude to peace for us. Until peace is truly achieved, the government and the Taliban cannot but be expected to face major obstacles. If the negotiating parties do not come to the negotiating table with a big heart and broad mind, it is unlikely that these meetings will get anywhere.

As of now, Afghanistan has never been closer to an end to war as much as it is today. Now that everything is ready, the negotiating parties need to think now more than ever about Afghanistan, her people and their common interests. A little courage in declaring a ceasefire may change the course of the negotiations. As Mr. Haji Muhammad Mohaqiq once said in a speech, returning to war would not be difficult for the Taliban. The Taliban must agree to a ceasefire, and if they do not achieve the desired outcome of the talks, they will still have the ability to return to the battlefield.

Another key point is that the two negotiating parties are unlikely to agree to a ceasefire without the mediation of a third party. It is thus incumbent on the United States and countries such as Pakistan, which have good relations with the Taliban, to persuade the group to declare a ceasefire. With this, the Americans and Pakistanis will both gain the trust of the Afghan people and greatly contribute to the Afghan peace process. Both countries must have already reached the conclusion that peace is not possible without a ceasefire. In addition to these two countries, other important countries and organizations should also consider offering their support. We must accept the fact that the flame of Afghanistan’s 40-year war cannot be put out without the mediation of third-party organizations or countries.