By Tayyeb Afridi
The best hope for peace in Afghanistan is that Taliban have learned and used diplomacy as a tool to resolve the conflict as Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef has told Pakistani newspaper ‘Independent’ that “Taliban have learned diplomacy, accumulated knowledge about world — that how its works — and have also learned from mistakes” that they committed during their rule from 1996 until 2001 when their regime was toppled by the US-led forces in Afghanistan.
However, for Taliban, the violence has delivered which will be used again as a leverage during intra-Afghan talks. This is a notorious tool that largely affected Afghan society, but a productive one for the Taliban. That is why it was one of the main points of an agreement where the US insisted on reduction of violence that has led to the signing of an agreement on Feb 29, probably the biggest event of 2020.
As part of the deal, Taliban will want Afghan government to release its prisoners being arrested during 18 years long war. They’re huge in numbers and if worked out, that will mean an army of Taliban will be released which could be used again by the Islamic Emirate as Taliban call themselves.
Intra-Afghan talks will be a challenge for Taliban as well as Afghan government to develop a mechanism of power sharing which seems the difficult phase of the agreement as hostilities run high on grounds in Afghanistan. Factions and political groups in Kabul have had a long history of battling each other.
But this challenge has also given an opportunity to avoid the fallout — the kind of — Afghanistan had witnessed after the USSR withdrawal in 1979. Certainly the Taliban will not want to repeat that history again.
The US also has put in guards to protect the agreement and keep it working which is that they have conditioned the withdrawal with political developments. The US has committed itself for phased-wise withdrawal in estimated 14 months.
The US has leverage to postpone withdrawal, while the Taliban will certainly not want to lose gains in the form of withdrawal postponement. It has long been one of the prime demand of Taliban from US to withdraw from Afghanistan, which they will brand as success.
The US has made the Taliban committed in the agreement not to allow any foreign agents in any shape to use Afghanistan soil for violence, providing a window to both for working as an ally to fight terrorism.