United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and top Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar shake hands after signing the peace agreement, in Doha on 29 February
United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and top Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar shake hands after signing the peace agreement, in Doha on 29 February | ANI
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New Delhi: At least 25 people, mostly students, were killed in a terror attack at Kabul University in Afghanistan amid the ongoing peace talks between the US and the Taliban and Afghanistan. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In episode 609 of ‘Cut the Clutter’, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta explained the complexities involved in the Afghanistan peace talks.

Afghanistan is a country of over 4 crore people, and 90 per cent of them earn less than $2 a day. It is both a poor country and a violence-torn country.

The recent attacks on Kabul University saw terrorists dressed in Afghan National Army uniforms. Gupta pointed out that there has been a pattern of attacking students in Afghanistan.

“If there is one thing that fundamentalists of any religion dislike most of all is scholarship. When it comes to politics driven by religious fundamentalism, they really resent modern education because their idea of education is what you learn from the clergy,” he explained.

The Taliban has denied that they had anything to do with the attack.

Gupta noted that the Taliban is now involved in peace talks with the Americans and the Afghan government.

Also read: India has assured Kabul of ‘active involvement’ in Taliban peace talks, says Abdullah Abdullah

State of play in Afghanistan 

“The state of play (in Afghanistan) right now is that these attacks have taken place on educational institutions. But, alongside the numbers and frequency, the deadliness of attacks has also increased,” said Gupta.

The government forces in Afghanistan are also “losing morale”, he added.

Zalmay Khalilzad, US President’s Special Envoy on Afghan peace talks, has negotiated with Taliban at Doha but Gupta said these are “surrender talks”.

“They know that the Americans now, to get their forces out and to have some semblance or some claim to having restored peace, want to hand over Afghanistan to the Taliban. That surrender has taken place. The talks in Doha are surrender talks,” he added.

A statement by US Central Commander General McKenzie noted that the US has only 4,500 troops left in Afghanistan, down from 12,000 in the beginning of the year.

Even though the schedule of the Peace Accords has been kept up to date, Gupta said, stress continues in the country.

This is because the Taliban thinks Americans will never leave completely and the Afghan government believes the Taliban’s commitment to peace is a “sham”.

Gupta noted that the entire exercise of signing the Peace Accords was convoluted. When objections were raised against the US having peace talks with what was essentially considered a terrorist group, Taliban called itself a state and in fact signed the accord as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

But Afghanistan already has a government under American patronage and international supervision.

Also read: Early exit of US troops may upset intra-Afghan talks, benefit Taliban

What happened after the signing of agreement? 

After the signing of the agreement between Taliban and America, there were many conditions that the Afghan government had to deliver. One of them was that they had to release over 5,000 Taliban terrorists who were in Afghan jails.

“The Afghan government said that this is an agreement between the Taliban and America…We are the sovereign state of Afghanistan. So, how can we agree to an agreement between the Taliban and the Americans? We are not bound by this,” Gupta explained.

Once the Afghan government put up these objections to the Doha agreement, the Taliban was persuaded to start another round of negotiations with the Afghan government.

Thus, there were two parallel negotiations taking place. The negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government were led by President Ashraf Ghani.

“But then Taliban said we don’t recognise this government as a representative of the state. We are the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” Gupta noted.

Theocracy vs democratic republic

A 21-member group of negotiators was set up to tackle this situation. It was headed by Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation. Abdullah is half-Pashtun from his father and his mother was Tajik.

The Afghan government chose Abdullah Abdullah because they figured this is ethnically loaded in the sense that he represents Pashtuns as well as Tajiks. In turn, the Taliban appointed a well-known maulvi as their chief negotiator.

Maulvi Abdul Hakim is a religious scholar and he interprets the law in courts that are located in areas run by Taliban. He is also being overseen by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is a deputy supreme leader of the Taliban.

“One side has this supposedly modern, Islamic but elected government, based on a kind of global democratic values. On the other hand, there is a pakka maulvi,” said Gupta.

He cited an article in The New York Times and noted that the clash in Afghanistan is between two contrary visions. One is the vision of theocracy and the other is a democratic republic.

Also read: Bala Hissar — the ancient citadel of Kabul that India is helping Afghanistan to restore

Two sticking points

Gupta noted that there are two sticking points in the peace agreement talks. One is political and the other is religious, and the latter is more important than the former.

For the Taliban, the reference point of the talks should be the Doha agreement between the Americans and the Taliban. However, the Afghan government said they were not represented in those talks.

The government noted that it will accept the Doha agreement as one of the resolutions only if the second one is a resolution of the Loya Jirga.

Loya Jirga is like a council of tribal elders, tribal chiefs, sponsored by the Afghan government, and is also a joint declaration between the US and Afghan government.

“This is not something the Taliban like very much. Because if they accept that then they accept the Ghani government as the Afghan government,” said Gupta.

The Taliban also insisted that the Sunni Muslim system of jurisprudence called Hanafi Fiqh, should be the sole reference point for any argument on religious grounds. But the other side argues that if that is done then it excludes many others who don’t follow the Hanafi Fiqh system.

Then, the Taliban suggested that Shias can be allowed to use their own jurisprudence, the jeffrey nikah. But the Hanafi Fiqh will remain the touchstone of all reference points.

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  1. Like you the media is spreading propaganda against the Taliban they are fighting for their independence and the time has come that US is withdrawing from the Afghanistan if you are on right path no one can defeat you. The Afghans had defeated the British, Russian and now US. Don’t dare to challenge them.

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