Afghan government’s negotiating position completely at odds with Taliban’s

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani laid out the government’s conditions for peace with the Taliban, and not surprisingly, its demands are completely at odds with those of the Taliban. Ghani called for negotiations that are driven by Afghans, which is the opposite of what is actually occurring today.

Ghani outlined his government’s roadmap for negotiations today during the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan.

“We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society, Ghani said, according to TOLONews. The peace agreement would include “the following tenets” [note, the following bullet points are quoted directly from TOLONews]:

• The Constitutional rights and obligations, of all citizens, especially women, are ensured.

• The Constitution is accepted, or amendments proposed through the constitutional provision.

• The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and civil service function according to law.

• No armed groups with ties to transnational terrorist networks or transnational criminal organizations, or with ties to state/non-state actors, seeking influence in Afghanistan will be allowed to join the political process.

The Afghan government’s conditions for peace are completely at odds with those of the Taliban. The Taliban has refused to participate in democracy which it deems to be un-Islamic. Democracy, according to statements released on its official propaganda website, has been “imposed” on the “Afghan nation” and “has only brought misery and suffering to the people of Afghanistan.”

“An Islamic system,” meaning the Taliban’s system of governance, and not democracy, “is the guarantor of peace, protects the honor and rights of every Muslim and is even in the best interest of non-Muslims,” the Taliban has stated.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the only legitimate form of government in the eyes of the Taliban, the group has stated repeatedly over the past decade and a half. In its official opening statement at the Moscow conference on peace negotiations earlier this month, the Taliban referred to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan 61 times. This was no accident; the Taliban is saying the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the true representative of the Afghan people.

The Taliban has refused to accept the Afghan constitution, which it also views as un-Islamic and a tool of the West used to suppress the Afghan people. At the Moscow conference, the Taliban took this issue head on, and said the Afghan constitution “it has been copied from the West and has been imposed on Afghanistan’s Muslim society under the shadow of occupation.”

“Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers it necessary that [the] constitution must be based on principles of Islamic religion, national interests, historical achievements and social justice,” it continued. The Taliban has insisted that only Islamic scholars of its liking can draft a new constitution.

While the Taliban hasn’t stated its position on the Afghan security forces and the “civil service,” it is highly unlikely the group would make any agreement that would cede its considerable power to the Afghan government. The Taliban has stated it will not “share power” with an Afghan government that it considers “Un-Islamic,” “illegitimate,” and a “puppet” and “stooge” of the West.

Finally, the Taliban has refused to denounce al Qaeda and other regional and transnational terrorist groups that it allies with and permits to operate on its soil. While the Taliban talks a good game publicly about refusing to allow its soil to be used to attack other countries, it continues to provide safe haven for al Qaeda, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taliban, the Turkistan Islamic Party, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and a host of other groups. The Taliban only battles the Islamic State in Afghanistan because the Islamic State challenges its primacy. The US military routinely raids al Qaeda camps and targets al Qaeda commanders in Afghanistan.

In the past, the Taliban has refused to denounce al Qaeda. Instead, it welcomes the group. Both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri swore allegiance to the Taliban’s successive emirs. Zawahiri’s oath to Mullah Mansour was publicly accepted and promoted by the Taliban on Voice of Jihad.

The Taliban, which takes care to keep its relationship with al Qaeda under wraps, occasionally slips up. As recently as Dec. 2016, the Taliban, in a video titled “Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen,” promoted the enduring Taliban-al Qaeda relationship. In one section which promoted the martyrs of the Afghan jihad, al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban founder Mulla Omar (see image above) were shown side by side. Also shown is Nasir al Wuhayshi, Osama bin Laden’s aide de camp who was promoted to lead al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as well as serve as al Qaeda’s general manager.

Afghan government’s plan for negotiations does not comport to the reality of what is happening

Ghani also laid out what TOLONews described as “a five-phase approach” to the negotiating process. First, according to Ghani, the Afghan government will hold direct talks with the Taliban (“an intra-Afghan dialogue”), “followed by discussions with Pakistan and the United States, followed by participation of regional actors, the Arab-Islamic world, and finally, NATO and non-NATO countries.”

Instead, the exact opposite is happening. The Geneva and Moscow conferences are prime examples of the inverted process, as well as the US meeting directly with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar.

The Taliban has refused to directly negotiate with the Afghan government, which it again views as a puppet of the West. Instead, the Taliban has insisted on directly negotiating with the US, which it views as the real power broker, and insists that the US withdraw its troops from the country. Only then can the Taliban make “peace.”

The US and international community, in its haste to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban at any cost, has delegitimized the Afghan government and weakened its potential negotiating position, assuming the Taliban will even negotiate with it. It is difficult to see how the Afghan government can remain a party to the so-called peace process given those conditions.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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