The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated since the US-Taliban peace agreement. The release of more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners from the Afghan government jails has changed the country’s war situation in favour of the Taliban. Contrary to public expectations and assumptions, in recent months since the signing of the Taliban-US peace agreement, the number of Taliban attacks has not only not decreased compared to the past, but also increased quantitatively and qualitatively, with a rise in the number of Taliban attacks and casualties.
The Taliban overnight attacks on provincial capitals and attacks on positions of government forces and the Afghan army, and the seizure of the outskirts of cities and provinces, have intensified the security atmosphere and spread unrest in Afghanistan. In addition to the insecure climate in Afghanistan, the country’s domestic political situation suffers from instability. Diversity of opinions and differences in approach between leaders of political currents and negative competition within the government has led to divergence of political and social forces within Afghanistan.
Differences in the interests of national, regional and international actors have become another factor in the loss of political stability in Afghanistan. Trump’s stance on the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the dispute between the White House and the Pentagon over how to pull out troops from Afghanistan have further exacerbated the internal turmoil in Afghanistan. The cautious activity of other countries whose forces are present in Afghanistan under the NATO along with the American forces has not had much effect on creating stability and calm in Afghanistan, and the internal situation is deteriorating day by day.
Following the signing of a peace agreement with US envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, the Taliban have stepped up their diplomatic contacts and sought to re-emerge through ongoing political consultations. The presence of Taliban leaders in the media, interviews with foreign news agencies, ongoing cyberspace activities, and the announcement of official positions by a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha are also part of the group’s media activities to present a different face of the Taliban in international public opinion.
Along with media activities, the Taliban’s field activities have increased dramatically in recent months. The Taliban leaders, while adhering to the terms of the peace agreement with the United States, have refrained from attacking US targets for the past eight months, with US military casualties in Afghanistan falling sharply to almost zero, according to official figures. The US-led invasion of Afghanistan is unprecedented, but the Taliban’s attacks on Afghan forces have increased exponentially, and the number of Afghan military and civilian casualties has reached a new high since the signing of the agreement with the United States.
As insecurity escalated and instability spread in Afghanistan, inter-Afghan talks finally resumed in September with a series of pauses in the presence of senior foreign officials from some European and Asian countries and the US Secretary of State in Doha, Qatar. From the beginning of the inter-Afghan talks, Afghan affairs experts predicted that the talks would last only until the US election, but few predicted that the talks would reach a stalemate in the first round.
The Taliban’s lack of flexibility in negotiations and the Afghan government’s red lines during the talks led to Khalilzad’s efforts coming to a standstill much sooner than he had anticipated, and the situation became difficult for him. Khalilzad, who has been trying to bring peace to Afghanistan since the beginning of the Doha process by managing the situation and applying a policy of eliminating or giving prominence to the players, has hit a strong wall at this stage. One of Khalilzad’s most important actions during the Doha talks was to exclude the Afghan government from the Doha talks.
This action of Khalilzad, which was met with dissatisfaction from the Afghan government, has prompted the Kabul government to rebuild and revitalize itself and play an independent role in the peace process at this stage of the negotiations. The Afghan government, which had been hit by a crisis of legitimacy since the low light presidential election and the division of the political forces had damaged its international credibility, is now seeking to enter the peace talks and manage the Afghan peace process by shaping regional dialogue and gaining the support of neighbouring countries.
In this regard, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, head of the newly established High Reconciliation Council, made his third regional trip to Tehran. During his stay, he met with senior officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran to discuss the latest developments in Afghanistan and the region, and was closely acquainted with the IRI’s position on supporting the Afghan peace process. Among the principled positions of the IRI in support the of the peace process are issues such as the peace process in coordination with the Afghan government, the need to preserve the achievements of the Bonn Summit and the political structure of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the devastating consequences of forming an interim government in Afghanistan.
Consultations on the fight against drugs, the fight against terrorism and extremism, the organization of refugees, the flow of water into Iran and the establishment of a joint Iranian-Afghan economic commission were other issues discussed during Dr Abdullah Abdullah’s two-day visit.
Dr Abdullah Abdullah’s Tehran visit and consultations with senior officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran have some points that can be very important for the government of Afghanistan. While senior Afghan officials have long been embroiled in internal strife and lost the opportunity to consult with officials from other countries, now in the capacity of representatives of the educated nation of Afghanistan they hold talks and consultations with senior officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran and by gaining Tehran’s support participate in the peace talks. Another message of Dr Abdullah Abdullah’s visit to Tehran that can be mentioned is the regional role and position of Iran. Despite the efforts of Trump’s foreign policy team in Afghanistan to ignore Iran’s role in the peace process, Dr Abdullah’s presence in Tehran showed that the peace process is not possible without the cooperation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and any actor who wants to ignore the role and interests of the Islamic Republic in Afghanistan will fail to achieve its goals.