The Return of the Taliban's Reign in Afghanistan?
A report from Kabul on what a post-peace environment in Afghanistan could look like – and the main players looking for power.
President Donald Trump took everyone by surprise when he announced the cancellation of peace talks between the US and the Taliban and a secret meeting with the Taliban and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani in Camp David through a series of tweets.
The announcement came after an American soldier lost his life in a suicide bombing near the US Embassy in the Shash Darak area of Afghanistan last week. Although US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the peace talks “are on hold and the United States will keep pressuring Taliban militants for significant commitments”, it is not yet clear how long it will take the Taliban to deliver on these.
While both sides claimed to reach substantial progress in peace talks in Doha at the beginning of this month, for many Afghans post-peace scenarios look dubious and frightening. Mostly, urban dwellers are worried about losing the gains achieved in the past 18 years and having to live under the conservative Islamic rule of the Taliban’s regime.
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The intensity of fighting has soared in the past few months between the Afghan forces and terrorist groups including the Taliban and ISIS, with the civilian population targets. Last month, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a wedding hall, killing more than 90 people including women and children. The Taliban immediately denied any involvement and condemned such acts in which civilians are mainly targeted. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Just last week, two high profile attacks rocked Kabul leaving hundreds dead and injured. The first one targeted the Green village, a highly protected camp that houses international organisations and aid agencies. The second took place near the US Embassy in Shash Darak. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both.
In the wake of these attacks, Donald Trump tweeted: “I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position?”
In response, the Taliban said in a statement: “We will keep fighting for our freedom until the last invader soldier.”
Amidst all the ongoing chaos and carnage, will any of the post-peace scenarios, including the withdrawal of the US military, bring serenity to the people’s lives?
“I am ready to sacrifice some of my personal choices so people’s lives could be protected”Shahrzad Shamim
A Kabul-based security analyst who preferred to remain anonymous told Byline Times: “It is very unlikely that the ongoing conflict would end soon, the challenging part of the post-peace environment would be the Intra-Afghan dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan Government. Each group will try to enforce his will upon the other.” He said that the worst thing will be that discussions between the groups will take place in luxury five-star hotels in some foreign land, while the heaviest price would be paid by ordinary people in Afghanistan.
Agha Jan Motasim, the former minister of finance for the Taliban regime who lives in Kabul, said in a TV interview that the current fighting will not be over even if the Taliban joins the peace process because there will be other groups such as ISIS that will continue to fight for its cause.
Who will Rule Afghanistan?
One of the biggest concerns most people have for post-peace Afghanistan is about its system of governance. Will it be a democracy of theocracy? Who will be ruling it – the Taliban or someone for other fractions?
In a recent interview with Afghan news channel Tolo News, US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said that the “Emirate system of governance is not acceptable to the US Government and we will not go back to [having an] Emirate”. However, he added that it would be up to the Afghan Government and the Taliban to decide.
Agha Jan Motasim has put forward the idea of mixing the idea of a republic with the Emirate system and for power to be shared accordingly between the Taliban and the Afghan Government.
The younger generation is trying to make its voice heard through social media to defy the peace negotiations which would signal the return of the Taliban.
One of the most successful online trends started by journalist Farahnaz Frotan is called #MyRedLine, with which the country’s young urban elite share their thoughts about the peace negotiations between the Taliban and the US, emphasising the need to safeguard the gains already made such as democracy, women rights, elections and so on.
“There are so many unanswered questions around the peace agreement between the US and the Taliban,” Shahrzad Shamim, an attorney based in Kabul, told Byline Times. She said that if any negotiations bring peace and end the violence, they will be welcomed, but if it is a symbolic gesture only and the fighting continues, it will be very contemptuous of the aspirations of the Afghan people for peace.
“For me, it is important to know how the Taliban would like to come back, if they would like to rule with the same mentality that they governed earlier,” she added. “It would be very difficult, not only for me, but for most of the young generation to live under their rule.
“But if they come with [an] open mind, to work for the betterment of the society and to end bloodshed and violence, then [I] can accept the limitation that they would like to impose on women’s attire up to some extent, but I will not put [the] Burka on at any cost.
“If the negotiations could lead to peace and prosperity, I am ready to sacrifice some of my personal choices so people’s lives could be protected.”
Zuhal, who works with an international NGO, told Byline Times: “Of course I don’t want to go back and live under the Taliban rule as they did in the 1990s, but I also don’t want my son to grow up under [the] atrocity of war and daily violence… We are ready to make compromises and I would expect the same from the Taliban too”.
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