The Ridiculous “Talks about Talks” with Taliban

My Outlook op-ed on May 23

Taliban continue the terror. Their Al-Badar operation has just started and about 2000 civilians have been killed by them in last 4 months. Some foreigners think, and they are quite right, that Afghans are hypocrite. People are ready to die protesting on alleged deaths of civilians by foreign troops, but never condemn Taliban brutality. It’s not understandable why masses keep mum against Taliban killings of innocent laborers and ordinary people in bomb blasts. Probably it’s the fear of insurgents. In the past, many tribal elders or religious scholars who condemned suicide bombings have been murdered by Taliban.  Another reason why people protest against foreign troops, while ignoring Taliban brutalities is that troops have visibility, in their bases and offices where people come and show rage. While nobody knows where a Talib suicide bomber comes from and no visible figures represent insurgents in public. However, past experience and the nature of our people suggest that when common Afghans react against Taliban, it would be an armed confrontation with them.

The worst cowardly Taliban attacks were of the last two weeks on students at a hospital in Kabul, and poor laborers working on a construction site in Paktia. They also proudly claimed responsibility, yet our rulers come with routine ready-made press statements condemning the unknown “enemies of Afghanistan” for these attacks. The nation is confused who the unknown enemies are, when President Karzai avoid naming Taliban, whom he prefers to call “our angry brothers.”

While the members of President Karzai’s Peace Council make tours from Maldives to Turkey, Taliban have shown not even little willingness for talks. The irony is that those who are fighting on ground have not been contacted, while our “white-beard” elders of the High Peace Council are holding meetings in Pakistan and Iran taking our neighbors “in confidence”, and the “angry brothers” of the President continue terror against innocent civilians. It has been almost a year now this Council is established. They have spent millions on making group-travels abroad, flying in business class, staying in expensive luxury hotels, but what is the outcome so far? Why it has been that difficult to make a direct contact with Taliban commanders on ground, and their leaders? They are advocating for a Taliban Political Office abroad. First Turkey was suggested, and now speculations are about UAE or any other Gulf Arab country, who are very well familiar with their former beneficiaries of Jihad donations. But the question is, why our “white-beard” elders, who have been given relevant authority in this regard, are not confident to ask Taliban for negotiations in some place of their stronghold in Kandahar, rather than advocating a ridiculous “political office” abroad? The fact is that, the Peace Council is not confident of their overtures, otherwise they could have at least started the talk about talks in a direct contact with Taliban, rather than making irrelevant visits abroad.

Recently there have been reports about directs talks of the US with Taliban. But insurgents’ spokesman has strongly rejected the latest reports affirming their “commitment” with more deadly attacks, of which most victims are Afghan civilians. However, the US officials still talk about the “need to talk to Taliban”. It sounds ridiculous. Because we know that the US is already in dire pursuit of this, and that’s what President Karzai and his Peace Council has been trying to do in the past two years, but they have failed. Nobody understands what to name this ineffective and failed process. Negotiation is the name of a process in which two sides of the conflict agree to talk. But here it has been all a unilateral desire. No matter how many times President Karzai turn a blind eye towards the death of innocent Afghan civilians by Taliban while ruining his relations with NATO/ISAF and the US on incidents of civilian deaths by foreign troops,  his “angry brothers” are not taking it for “confidence building”.

Officials of President Obama’s Administration admit that reconciliation with all Taliban won’t be successful. Even if the negotiations somehow start with any important insurgent leaders, there will be militants who will never reconcile or become part of peaceful society. Suicide bombings won’t stop, and these people can only be defeated militarily. Critics say why it has not been possible in the last 9 years. It’s obvious, because terrorists have never been targeted in their sanctuaries. They have training camps and recruiting centers operating in North Waziristan and other tribal agencies in Pakistan, yet Pak Army is reluctant to launch military operations there. Even the US has failed to persuade them for this.

On the other hand, the unilateral attempts of talks with Taliban both from President Karzai, who is running these affairs like solving any intra-tribal issue, and the US won’t work if it ignores another important phenomenon. It’s not only the US having problems with militants. The anti-Taliban constituency in Afghanistan has to be involved in a true sense, not just with symbolic members in the Peace Council. Afghans who resisted and fought Taliban for years have also problems with them, but they are completely ignored in this ridiculous process.

We can’t count deaths of innocent people every day, and the fruitless “talks about talks” continues but actually never happening in real productive sense, while our rulers and western leaders now calling it the only solution to end conflict, which is not working at all. What lies ahead for Afghanistan is an uncertain and unknown future, with regional stability, and global peace at stake.

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Filed under Insurgency, Reconciliation, Taliban

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