US-Taliban talks

December 10, 2019

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AFTER abruptly being broken off on the orders of President Donald Trump in September, reports have emerged that parleys between the US and the Afghan Taliban have recently resumed in Qatar. Of course where matters in Afghanistan are concerned, it is best to expect the unexpected. Reports suggest that the Americans want to seal a deal by the end of this month; however, considering the byzantine nature of Afghan politics, and the fact that Kabul has been suffering from four decades of conflict, this may be a rather ambitious deadline. Yet it is positive that Washington and the Taliban are talking, and perhaps a sustainable peace deal may be achieved in the months ahead. After all, it has been stated that both sides were quite close to an agreement when things went off track in September. It is also true that all sides — particularly the Americans — are suffering from battle fatigue and wish to call it a day. This impression is strengthened by a recent report in the Washington Post, which has quoted documents in which American officials have said the war in Afghanistan is “unwinnable”, though the US has not said this publicly. However, as America has learnt, and the USSR before it, getting involved in the Afghan theatre is quite simple; extricating oneself from this quagmire is a much more difficult task.

It is hoped that this time the talks achieve a solid agreement that sets the stage for a peaceful Afghanistan. But miracles should also not be expected, as a conflict this long and complicated will take time to untangle. The Afghan government should be involved while regional states, including this country, must also be kept in the loop as instability in Afghanistan has a direct impact on the security of neighbouring states. America might be in a hurry to get out of Afghanistan, but a final settlement needs to be hammered out between the Taliban, the Kabul government as well as other Afghan political players, and should not be imposed by external powers. Meanwhile, it is almost inevitable that should violence continue in the country, more extreme actors such as the militant Islamic State group will exploit the situation and use Afghanistan as a base for global militancy. After decades of bloodshed, the Afghan people need peace and reconciliation to rebuild their shattered homeland.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019