Noting that the Afghan government will hold the elections by the end of 2019, Mohsen Pakaeen said everything depends on the US negotiations with the Taliban and the commitment the United States has made to leave Afghanistan,” Pakaeen said. They have to make strong guarantees and mere words that they would pull out are unlikely to persuade the Taliban.
Pointing to some “important events and issues” that are taking place in Afghanistan, he said the Afghan government and president are preparing for the elections. They seem to be determined to hold the election in due time and believe if they fail democracy would be harmed and the legitimacy of Afghanistan sovereignty would be questioned.
He added: “Some parties and groups also agree with the government that a national resolve must be created in Afghanistan so that the nature and identity of independence and democracy in the country are not compromised. The Taliban, on the other hand, believe that given the presence of foreigners who are, of course, mostly American, the elections in Afghanistan would make no sense and should not be held as long as foreign troops are in the country. They have also said they will do their best so that the elections would not be held.
At the same time, both the Taliban and the Americans are determined to conclude their negotiations and agree on a timetable that would be favorable to both sides, the international relations expert added.
He said that a Taliban official has announced the group had come together to schedule a meeting with the United States, saying that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan was one of Trump’s election slogans and that he needed its realization for the upcoming presidential election. If that happens and the Americans conclude by announcing they are ready to leave Afghanistan, then we need to see if the pullout happens before October or not.
“It is very unlikely that the Americans will be able to pull out of Afghanistan in less than a month unless they can somehow win the confidence of the Taliban to hold elections in October,” Pakaeen said. For example, by pulling some of the troops by October and withdrawing another batch based on a timetable agreed by both sides. These are unpredictable topics.
He said it was unlikely for the US-Taliban talks to lead to an eventual success, adding that there could be some understanding and promises, but they were facing difficulties that they would not be able to implement those commitments.
The main reason for not reaching an agreement to leave Afghanistan is the Americans themselves, Pakaeen explained. Americans cannot quickly withdraw their troops unless they make a deal with the Taliban and give assurances that they will exit Afghanistan on several turns; then it must be seen whether the Taliban will accept these conditions or not. On the other hand, there is much controversy within the US about military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a large number of officials and politicians oppose US troop pullout from Afghanistan because they believe that leaving the country will provide an environment for terrorism and instability and insecurity will be restored in the country and this will not serve US interests. So the root cause of this problem is America itself.
“The speculation we can have is that there will be elections in the country in the near future, but because of the developments that are coming up, I see the likelihood of another delay of the voting,” said the senior international relations expert on the possibility of a presidential election in Afghanistan.
He explained that the Taliban themselves want to run in the elections and are not trying to portray themselves as a militant and terrorist group and believe that not holding the elections would call into question the legitimacy of the ruling establishment. But because of failing to reach a final deal in their negotiations with the US and since the Taliban have conditioned holding of the election contingent on US troop withdrawal by the October deadline, therefore it is not possible to hold the election on due time. On the other hand, the government of Ashraf Ghani would not mind to postpone the elections and stay in power longer.
Referring to the recent explosions in Afghanistan that killed and wounded a number of people, he said, the Taliban had said they would not allow elections because it would make “no sense” as long as foreign troops remained in Afghanistan. If the Taliban come to an agreement with the Americans, which I doubt they would, then the Taliban position may change as circumstances change.
Therefore, the Taliban are using the leverage of election to fulfill one of their main goals, which is the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, Pakaeen said.