The elusive peace in Afghanistan appears to be even more distant with the Taliban taking their intransigence to higher levels by refusing to participate in the planned Istanbul talks. After the Taliban refusal the Turkish authorities have postponed the talks till after the end of Ramazan. As things stand now, there is a slim chance that the Taliban will alter their hardline approach in this never-ending saga of bloodshed. In a related development on April 27, American lawmakers have grilled US President Biden’s Afghanistan peace envoy about how women will be protected if the Taliban take control after US troops withdraw from the country. The US lawmakers have also threatened to withhold funding if rights gains are reversed. This is one of the major concerns of the world community about Afghanistan which is highly dependent on foreign aid especially from international donors such as the EU, US, and the World Bank.
The Taliban have proved to be a hard nut to crack in terms of their insistence on not accepting the Kabul government and its constitution. In the past 20 years the civil society in Afghanistan has made considerable advances especially in major cities. Irrespective of the extent of legitimacy – or lack thereof – of the Kabul government, women in Afghanistan have fought back and won at least some of their rights that were non-extant during the Taliban rule. Any attempt on the part of the Taliban to roll back those gains will face stiff resistance both nationally and internationally. These concerns have intensified after the Biden Administration announced its plans to withdraw troops by Sept. 11 after two decades of war.
There is a strong likelihood that even after a complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Washington would continue providing assistance to Afghan security forces and civilian programmes especially for girls and women. In this emerging scenario, Pakistan needs to tread carefully and must try to convince the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire so that some talks could begin. It is only through talks that the peace prospects can be rekindled. If the Taliban are planning to keep boycotting talks in the hope of a capture of Kabul after the US withdrawal, their expectations appear to be misplaced. Afghanistan desperately needs foreign aid without which no government in Kabul can survive for long be it of Ashraf Ghani or Mullah Bradar. Then there is a possibility of increased extremism in the region that may threaten peace across Afghan borders too. The State Department has also ordered government employees out of its embassy in Kabul citing increasing violence in the Afghan capital. All these developments call for renewed efforts for peace negotiation for which the Kabul government, Pakistan and the Taliban should be ready to play their respective roles.