The Taliban sent a delegation to Islamabad last week, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, at the official invitation of the Pakistani government. The delegation reportedly met with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi. The Afghan peace process in general and the reduction of violence in particular were the main topics of discussion at these meetings.
The agreements reached during these discussions between Pakistani officials and the Taliban are unknown at this time. However, it can be assumed that the two sides agreed to reduce violence in Afghanistan for a short period of time. This period is probably winter. Violence naturally declines in Afghanistan during this season because the Taliban lose the ability to use force in many mountainous, snowy and cold areas.
The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan recently agreed to take practical and scalable steps to build trust between the two countries and show goodwill towards each other. To establish Afghanistan’s goodwill towards Pakistan, Ghani ordered the release of some Pakistani prisoners following Khan’s visit to Kabul.
Pakistan, on the other hand, needs to take steps to build trust. The best course of action for the country in the current context would be to persuade the Taliban to reduce violence for a short period of time. Hence, it can be assumed that Pakistani officials agreed on this option in their meeting with the Taliban delegation. However, the plan is conditional on the release of some Pakistani prisoners, who Ghani pledged to release during a meeting with Khan. If Ghani’s order from last month is not implemented, the plan to reduce violence may not work.
The deal does not offer much benefit to the Afghan government. Reducing violence in the winter will backfire. Winter is an opportunity for the Taliban to rest and prepare for a new round of violence in the spring.
Pakistan’s benefit, however, is huge. On the one hand, the country is having its prisoners released and on the other hand, it is giving the Taliban the opportunity to rejuvenate. In addition, by doing so, Pakistan is increasing US confidence in itself.
Reducing violence is a conditional plan. To implement this plan, the Afghan government will have to comply with the conditions set by Pakistan. This plan, however, could also be extended. To extend it, they would force the Afghan government to accept other, more stringent conditions set by Pakistan. These conditions could range from the release of dangerous Pakistani prisoners, to changes in Afghanistan’s relations with India.
Ceasefire is the dream of the Afghan people, one that is not currently available to them. The future map of Afghanistan is in the hands of the US-Pakistan-Qatar triangle. In this plot, the Taliban is a passive and unwilling actor. Also, ceasefire as a project is almost at the end of this map. Therefore, it is impossible for an agreement on a ceasefire to be reached in the near future.
Given this, the Afghan government must make sure that it does not incur a heavy cost for every step it takes to build trust. Any order to release Pakistani prisoners must come with a guaranteed reduction in violence in Afghanistan until an agreement is reached on a permanent ceasefire. The Government of Afghanistan should not incur any further costs in extending this plan. If Pakistan really wants to build trust, it should not covet any more concessions from the deal.
The international community should not turn a blind eye to the instrumental view of some countries of the Afghan peace process. Countries that are not honest in this process deserve reproach. Afghanistan will not achieve lasting peace if every country is to pursue its political ambitions in the process. Hence, it is necessary that the greedy eyes of such countries be shut during this process. This can only be possible, however, when the world follows this trend with open eyes. The Afghan government must also allow the international community to monitor this process. It must share every step taken to advance the negotiation process with the people, as awareness of the negotiation process and people’s oversight of the process will help pave the way for peace at a lower cost.