In 2018, the Taliban militants agreed to a truce during the three days of Eid Ul Fitr festivities. This was the first time in 40 years that Afghans witnessed a momentary lull in the mindless violence that has been raging in the country. Hundreds of thousands of families went out into the countryside to enjoy a moment of peace. Thousands of Taliban fighters filled the streets of Kabul and other major cities, seemingly dazzled at the sight of women on the streets and the progress since 2001.
But shortly after the third day of Eid, the Taliban leadership shura called on the militants to return to the frontlines and resume the fighting. And those fighters who did not resume fighting were either killed or banished.
This year, Afghans were relieved to see another short but welcomed truce during Eit-Ul Fitr. After experiencing many extremely violent incidents in Ramadan this year, including the heart-wrenching attack on the maternity ward in Kabul which took away two dozen innocent lives, the nature of which was uncommon in the history of the country. However, unlike the 2018 truce, the Taliban leaders made sure their foot soldiers did not venture out into the cities in Afghanistan, fearing they would abandon the hard-wired Jihadi narrative.
The two brief truces gave us a glimpse of hope that if the Taliban leaders really wanted to, they could end the violence and the killing the next day by extending the truce. However, some arguments have been made that the Taliban leaders don’t wish to stop the carnage, for two reasons:
First, in the 2018 truce, the Taliban military leaders realized a harsh fact that if any total cessation of violence lasted more than the three Eid days, they would lose control over their foot soldiers, something they see as detrimental to any future power-sharing scheme for them and their political leaders.
Second, the local Taliban commanders will lose control of the revenue streams from illicit sources. These illicit revenue sources bring in hundreds of millions of US dollars to the coffers of the Taliban leaders.
Unfortunately, the peace agreement with the US further emboldened the Taliban to sustain their violent campaign to seek total victory over Afghan security forces. The Taliban’s military leaders reference the agreement with the United States to keep their soldiers motivated by telling them that they have defeated a superpower and the Afghan government would collapse shortly.
At the moment, it seems the Taliban’s political leaders blame the Afghan government for the delay in the start of intra-Afghan dialogue by highlighting the issue of their prisoners’ release. However, it may not be the whole truth, as only in one day 900 Taliban prisoners have been released from Afghan government prisons.
Whatever may be the ultimate goal of the Taliban, one thing is clear: Afghan Security forces have stood the test of time. They have been transformed into a strong and professional force and they have proven time and time again that they could repel any Taliban attack attempting to take full control of a province. There is also another fact: Afghanistan has changed significantly and there is no space for Taliban ideology. In some parts of the country, the Taliban’s ideology may be accepted out of fear, but not in most of Afghanistan. If the Taliban leaders keep up the violence, hoping to bend the will of the majority of Afghans, it will only kill more innocent civilians, destroy whatever infrastructure was built in the past 20 years, and keep Afghanistan under the influence of its neighboring countries for the foreseeable future--something that history will curse and future generations will never forgive.
For the Taliban leaders to be part of any future for Afghanistan, it’s essential they seize this historic moment to stop the current carnage now and extend the truce. And I call on their political leaders to envision a peaceful future by extending the current truce so that the lives of thousands of men, women and children are saved, no matter on which side they are fighting.
And if the Taliban leaders want to have any honorable mention in the future as peacemakers, now is the moment to extend the truce. If they want to avoid damnation by millions of widows, orphans and generations of Afghans to come, it’s time to end this maddening violence and sit at the negotiation table without any further excuses.
But if they fail to grasp this historic moment, the Taliban leaders will be held responsible for perpetuating this mindless violence.
Now that the leaders have agreed to quit their squabbles over power and maintain a united front, I call on them to see a future for themselves and their children inside Afghanistan.
After all, we are all in the same boat maneuvering a stormy ocean with thousands of sharks lurking to seize it. Let’s make sure that we, the Afghan people, seize this opportunity and extend the truce as the means to ending the violence in our country, once and forever.
Fawzia Koofi leads the Movement for Change and is a delegate on the Afghan government’s negotiation team for talks with the Taliban. She is a former member of the Afghan parliament where she chaired the Human Rights Committee.
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