The Afghan Taliban has demanded the “release of prisoners” and the removal of its senior leaders and officials from UN and US sanctions list, before it will consider joining peace talks with the Afghan government. Additionally, the group said that it would only make peace with “believers” and not with “non-Mulims, invaders and combatants.”
The Taliban made its positions on negotiations known in two statements that were released on its official website, Voice of Jihad.
“Some preliminary steps should be taken prior to starting peace because without them, progress towards peace is not feasible,” according to a “Summary of the Statement by Representatives of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan given in Pagwash Conference (23-25 Jan, 2016) in Doha, the Capital City of Qatar.” Pagwash is an international non-governmental organization that seeks to facilitate the resolution of local conflicts.
“Establishment of official venue for the Islamic Emirate; removal of blacklist and prize list; release of prisoners and ending poisonous propaganda are among the preliminary steps needed for peace,” the statement continued.
The Taliban was also clear that Western forces must leave Afghanistan and the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the name of the Taliban government, be restored.
“Our Jihad is focused on ending the occupation and bringing about Islamic system,” the statement continued.
The Taliban view of “peace”
One day before the Taliban issued its statement on preconditions for negotiations, it released another that clarified its views on “peace.” In the statement, entitled “Let’s first define Peace then strive for its implementation,” the Taliban said that “believers should make peace among hostile believers,” and “in the issue of Afghanistan, one side is Muslims and they are Mujahideen while the invaders make-up the other side who are non-Mulims, invaders and combatants.”
In other words, the Taliban will not make peace with US and Coalition forces, nor will it do so with the Afghan government, which it routinely describes as apostates and Western “puppets.”
Negotiations used for tactical gains, not to further peace
If the past is any indicator, the Taliban would use negotiations to simply achieve its tactical goals. For example, the release of its leaders and followers from Western and Afghan prisons, removal of its officials from sanctions lists, and the legitimization of its political office in Qatar.
The Taliban has adeptly manipulated the West’s desire for peace negotiations to extract concessions at little to no cost. The most glaring example is the 2014 prisoner exchange where the US freed five dangerous high level Taliban commanders with links to al Qaeda for Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier who deserted from his unit in 2009. Western officials allowed the Taliban to open a “political office” in Doha, Qatar in order to promote negotiations, and believed the prisoner exchange would further peace talks.
However, the Taliban was clear that the political office was only to be used to further its goals, and the prisoner exchange “won’t help the peace process in any way, because we don’t believe in the peace process.” [See LWJ report, Bergdahl-Taliban prisoner exchange ‘won’t help the peace process in any way’ – Taliban spokesman.]