There is much talk nowadays of bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiations table with help from Pakistan to facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue for restoring peace in Afghanistan.
In this context, new Afghan President, Dr Ashraf Ghani’s recent visit to Pakistan is seen as a promising initiative for removing misgivings between Kabul and Islamabad and seeking the latter’s support to persuade, or even force if necessary, the Mulla Mohammad Omar-led Afghan Taliban to hold peace talks with the Afghan government.
Ghani earlier visited Saudi Arabia and China, two close friends of Pakistan, in the hope that they would put pressure on Islamabad to use its influence on the Afghan Taliban to agree to make peace with Kabul.
While there is a difference of opinion as to how much influence Pakistan has on Mulla Omar and his Taliban, the latter continue to refuse talks with the Afghan government. Taliban still consider the Afghan rulers, earlier Hamid Karzai and now Ghani, as US puppets, even though they both were elected leaders.
Taliban believe it is better to negotiate with the Americans than the Afghans installed in power by the US and this is what they did for reaching the prisoners’ exchange deal in May 2014.
Afghan Taliban’s views on the issue of ending the Afghan conflict are known. The demands they have been putting forward are ambitious and could be termed a wish-list. This isn’t surprising as all sides in a conflict always come up with maximum demands in the hope of bargaining a better deal.
Unofficially, Taliban highlighted three conditions for ending the Afghan conflict in an article in the weekly review posted on Taliban official website, “Voice of Jihad” recently. They termed it as their agenda for peace.
At the outset, the article said peace could be easily restored to their war-torn homeland, but the ‘enemy’ was stressing on war instead of peace. The three points are: 1) All the foreigners should immediately leave Afghanistan. 2) All the agreements — including the security pact with US — that are against the independence of Afghanistan and its impartiality and Islamic values should be cancelled. 3) An Islamic government should be established and Shariah implemented in Afghanistan.
The article also mentioned five other points listed below and claimed these were acceptable to all Afghans and should be kept in mind while striving to make Afghanistan peaceful. 1) Afghanistan is a free, impartial and sovereign country. 2) Afghanistan has neither accepted any aggression nor submitted to aggressors in its history. 3) The Afghans have never been slaves and do not accept puppet governments. 4) The absolute majority of the people of Afghanistan are Muslims. 5) Afghans want an independent Islamic government.
As the website is considered to carry the official viewpoint of the Taliban, the three-point peace agenda is being taken seriously. It shows the Taliban’s views haven’t changed. They remain stuck to their old demands about the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and the enforcement of Shariah.
The installation of an Islamic government also isn’t new as Taliban want restoration of their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan government that was ousted after the US invasion on October 7, 2001. However, the Afghan government has been claiming that it is already an Islamic government as no un-Islamic law exists in the country.
The demand for cancellation of the bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the US is a new one as it was signed on September 30, 2014 by President Dr Ashraf Ghani on the second day of his oath-taking.
In the same article, Taliban advised President Ghani to find solution of the Afghan conflict at home instead of paying visits to Saudi Arabia, China, and Pakistan for this purpose and signing bilateral security agreement with the US. The article said: “If a person wants to light his dark house and let fresh rays of sun enter it, there is neither any need of undertaking foreign trips nor the presence of US troops. Rather, his house could be lit up by less spending and through an easy window.”
And that easy window of opportunity, according to the Taliban, could be provided through their three-point agenda.