KABUL -- After almost two decades of fighting, the Taliban has only accomplished causing suffering and destruction in Afghanistan, and its opportunity to work for peace is withering away, Afghan analysts and civil society activists say.
Justifying the war by citing Islamic principles no longer works as scores of religious scholars from Afghanistan and ulema from across the Muslim world have declared the Taliban's fight "haram" or forbidden.
"The Taliban have been fighting for more than 20 years, the only result of which was killing and injuring Afghans and destroying Afghanistan," Naim Nazari, a Kabul-based civil society activist, told Salaam Times. "After all this time, the group has realised none of its goals."
"Muslim scholars in several conferences have called the Taliban's war and their activities haram," he said. "Therefore, they have no religious reason for continuing the war, and their only option is to turn to peace."
Now is the best time for peace negotiations
President Ashraf Ghani previously announced that he would hold peace talks with the Taliban and would recognise the group as a legitimate political party, said Kabul-based political analyst Habibullah Janabdar.
Following the successful ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban during Eid ul Fitr in June, Ghani also "declared a three-month ceasefire starting on Eid ul Adha that was on conditioned on the Taliban reciprocating Ghani's offer", he said.
"The Taliban should not reject these golden opportunities and offers," Janabdar told Salaam Times. "Now is the best time for the Taliban to begin peace negotiations."
"By announcing the most recent ceasefire, the Afghan president has fulfilled his Afghan and Islamic duties regarding the Taliban, the peace talks and the cessation of war," Janabdar said.
"If the Taliban are truly Afghans, and if they really are concerned about Afghanistan and its people, then it is their turn now to carry out their Afghan and Islamic duty, as well as their human responsibility," he said. "They must stop the war and violence and begin peace negotiations with the goal of achieving a permanent peace and prosperity in Afghanistan."
The Taliban's strength and credibility are slipping, said Mohammad Agul, a Kabul-based military analyst.
"Hence, it is now time for this group to pursue a peace strategy," he told Salaam Times.
"Given the current situation, this is truly the best time for peace negotiations," he said. "If they continue to fight instead of working towards peace, they will not only fail to reach their goals. They will forever lose their credibility with the people of Afghanistan."
Afghan government, public determined to end war
"The government and the Afghan people are resolutely determined to negotiate with the Taliban to end the war and to establish peace," Zakaria Zakaria, a member of the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament), told Salaam Times.
"The president, responding to the popular demand and will of the public, declared a ceasefire on two occasions: the first time during Eid ul Fitr and the second time during Eid ul Adha," he said.
"If the Taliban again fail to show up at the negotiation table and continue to fight, they must be absolutely aware that there will be no other chance for them to negotiate or to make peace," he said.
"I am certain that, in such a case, the next strategy of the Afghan government and the international community will be to crack down on and destroy the Taliban."
"The Taliban have never during the past 20 years had the opportunity that they have now," Zakaria said.
"If the group does not respond positively to President Ashraf Ghani's calls [for peace], it will forever lose its chance to establish a permanent peace and to unite with the government and society," he said.
'War is not a solution'
The Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) is also repeating its calls for the Taliban leadership to respect the demands of the public and to refrain from turning more Afghans into victims of the Taliban's violence.
"War is not a solution," HPC spokesperson Ehsan Taheri told Salaam Times. "Once again, we call on the Taliban leadership to respect the peace-seeking voices of the public and to express its readiness to negotiate directly with the [Afghan] government."
"The only result of the Taliban's enduring war is the loss of more Afghan lives, [civilians'] displacement and further civilian casualties," he said.
"The Taliban should not miss this excellent opportunity," said Taheri.
"The Taliban, the [Afghan] government and the society cannot achieve their goals and their objectives until peace and security are established in the country," said Arash Rahmati, 23, a social sciences student at the University of Kabul.
"When the peace negotiations start, when the Taliban stop the fighting and when they start to participate in elections as a political party with a proper plan and platform -- thereby allowing [voters] of Afghanistan to choose and elect whomever they want -- it is only then that we all can achieve our objectives," he told Salaam Times.
"If the Taliban is elected, then it... can serve the public," he said. "Otherwise, the continuation of war will have dangerous consequences both for the Taliban and for the public."