The United Nations designated September 21 as the International Day of Peace. This day is commemorated while the repercussion of war and violence still challenges the world and several countries plagued by conflict and violence have not succeeded in finding a solution thus far. Despite more than 40 years of warfare and violence, Afghanistan remains one of the countries whose citizens have not prospered in living in genuine peace and security. The Taliban, who are now in control of Afghanistan and have eliminated the opposition forces, claim that they have been able to establish security and peace in the country for the first time after more than forty years. However, it is explicit that the peace that the Taliban is referring to is not peace with justice, and thus it is not real but worse than war. Afghan people will not succeed in witnessing true peace.
On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, I would like to explore a point that has not received much attention. The gist of this article is that peacemaking is a valuable work, but if the strategy of peacemaking is not formulated properly and does not take into account the facts, it may not only not lead to peace, but it may lead to opposite results and destroy golden opportunities. Currently, some individuals expect the Taliban to surrender to peace and allow different groups to engage in political and social activities. Is such an expectation justified?
A significant blunder that the republican system committed which also led to its collapse along with other factors, was its falling into the abyss of pacifism without perspective. Those involved in that system, perhaps with the advice of external parties, propagated the notion of peace and tranquility, and mutual acceptance for more than 10 years. They created a literature that condemned war and violence and considered peace to be lost, and if it had been achieved, all the problems of Afghanistan would have been solved overnight.
There were movements within the system that directly or indirectly advocated for the enemy and considered the Taliban as a compatriot group covering up their actions. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai was one of the most prominent people who, after his relationship with the Americans became tense, called the Taliban “disaffected brothers” giving them legitimacy in a way. He explicitly stated that the Taliban are also the children of this country and reconciliation with them should be done at any cost. Naturally, the price of this reconciliation was paid by the people of Afghanistan and not by Karzai and his companions.
In this regard, Karzai and his colleagues litigated against many commanders who fought seriously with the Taliban bringing them to trial or at least removing them from their duties. These practices continued until they became normal and were done routinely. Additionally, Karzai made extensive efforts to stop the night operations of Western forces against the Taliban, accusing foreigners of killing innocent people.
The High Peace Council of Afghanistan was established at the cost of enormous sums of money. This council was supposed to function to ensure peace and encourage the Taliban to participate in negotiations with the Afghan government, but in practice, it only strengthened the ranks of the Taliban by releasing dangerous Taliban prisoners from prisons. At that time, by hearing the statements of the head or members of the Afghan High Peace Council, one could feel that they were sympathetic to the Taliban, especially due to some of the members of this council being former Taliban officials.
This council was never able to formulate a thorough and coherent strategy for achieving its supposed goals nor was it able to provide a comprehensive and complete analysis of the war and peace situation. The senior members of this council always emphasized and focused on the internal factors of the bloody conflict in Afghanistan swiftly ignoring the external and intelligence motives of this conflict. In such a situation, no one expected that they would be able to reach a correct analysis of the current conflict and provide correct solutions for it. The council seemed to be content with spending lavishly and providing its members with a luxurious lifestyle. Even until the national unity government came into being, this council was in confusion and its efforts did not yield any other results except to purify the Taliban.
In those years, several Afghan government officials were indiscriminately talking about peace assigning the media to extensively contribute in this field. However, they were oblivious to or ignored the fact that unilateral peace-seeking could not lead to the desired results, but made the supporters of the republic unmotivated and demoralized. This happened over time. In the years leading to the fall of the republic, many anti-Taliban politicians and political activists had either chosen neutrality or had established a relationship with the Taliban, deeming that the Taliban would give them a share of power once they gained power. The Taliban made the best use of the psychological situation in which the political elites in Afghanistan were caught. When the regime fell, politicians who once fought against the Taliban preferred the Taliban’s rise over Ashraf Ghani’s deposition. They were deceived by the propaganda of the Western media that today’s Taliban are not yesterday’s Taliban and if they make victory, they will give rights to others as well.
Even now, some political activists and politicians in exile often touch on negotiating with the Taliban, establishing peace, and forming an inclusive government. The Taliban are never willing to embrace the demands of their political opponents. When the Taliban were in a weak state and marginalized, they refused to negotiate with the then government of Afghanistan, now that they are at the peak of power and there is no serious challenge in front of them, it is unlikely that they will agree to this. The Taliban is a totalitarian and monopolistic group, and if one day it compromises and allows other parties and groups to operate and participate in the government, it will lose its essence and its power and strength will be lost. A Taliban member who is not a monopolist cannot be called a Talib.
In the current situation, launching a war against the Taliban is an arduous and challenging choice. Currently, groups of armed people who engage in armed activities against the Taliban rule in the country are facing countless difficulties and problems. Additionally, there are questions and uncertainties about the impact of these activities. However, the political and military opponents of the Taliban should remember that the Taliban does not easily compromise with the opposition. Perhaps, the Taliban leaders calculate that this group’s compromise with the opposition will make this group’s propaganda against the republican system ineffective and reduce the motivation of its forces to be loyal to the leadership. The Taliban do not like to make the mistakes that the leaders of the republic made, and these slips caused the ranks to disperse in the republican system. This is the reason why Taliban YouTubers have focused on the shortcomings of the leaders of the republic in these two years, attempting to prove the legitimacy of this group to their fans by launching extensive propaganda against them.
The Afghan exiled political leaders should either follow the method of the Taliban by resorting to violence or try to take power from the Taliban by force of arms, which seems unlikely at the moment. This is because neither these leaders hold sufficient influence inside Afghanistan to create armed factions and groups, nor does the international community support the launch of another war. It is difficult to win without territory and foreign support. The second option for these leaders is to pledge unconditional allegiance to the Taliban.
Undoubtedly, if peace is to be established under the rule of the Taliban, it will be an unjust peace. In a society where justice is not established, the security that is created is not sustainable. The accumulation of injustices will one day lead to an explosion.
In international relations, peace is often defined as “negative peace,” signifying the mere absence of violence. However, a more comprehensive definition of peace offers a more effective solution to global issues. It is essential to recognize that peace and justice are interconnected. The establishment of justice-oriented values within a society is fundamental for achieving genuine and lasting peace. Without justice and security, discussions of peace in a society become meaningless.
For true progress, peace, justice, security, and advancement must coexist and evolve in parallel. Genuine and complete peace, whether on a national or global scale, cannot be achieved without a foundation of justice. The peace propagated by the Taliban resembles a “cemetery peace,” devoid of consideration for fundamental rights and freedoms, ultimately leading to societal decay. This approach not only fails to benefit Afghanistan but also hinders its progress, development, and integration with the broader human civilization, leaving the country trapped in a grim era reminiscent of the Middle Ages.