Peace Talks with Taliban; An End to 17 Years War?

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The US-led War on Terror is the most prolonged war which completed its 17th year on October 7, 2018. The 17 years of war has killed more than 2,400 US soldiers and more than $132 billion are utilized only in the reconstruction by the US alone. Yet the US has achieved nothing, as even after 17 years of war more than half of the territory of Afghanistan is still under the Taliban control. The world’s superpower has lost its war against an insurgent group, and now all they are looking forward is for negotiations, commonly called as the “Peace Talks” with the Taliban.

In 2015, “Resolute Support Mission” was started in Afghanistan by NATO, focusing on training, advising and assisting the Afghan government forces. The Bush and Obama administration focused more on the reconstruction of the war-torn areas and nation-building. And to have a good relationship with the Afghan government but as soon as Donald Trump came in power, he utterly rejected the nation-building policy towards Afghanistan and on August 2017 said that:

“Ultimately it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace, we are a partner or a friend but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation building again, we are killing terrorists.”

More than a year has been gone since this statement of President Trump, yet no significant change has been seen in Afghanistan. There is a complex situation, a silence or a stalemate between the two parties. Since the start of the year 2018, US has been urging to hold peace talks and that this battle could not be fought on the battleground. On 16 January 2018 the political office of the Taliban issued a statement saying:

“Islamic Emirate [the Taliban]is seeking an end to foreign occupation and implementation of an Islamic system in the country … But the other side [Afghan government] has no clear strategy and is merely making hollow claims about peace talks”

Within this time a delegation of Taliban from the Qatar base meet Pakistani officials in Islamabad. There were voices saying that Afghan Taliban and Afghan government met in Turkey to initiate peace talks however both the parties rejected this allegation. Yet Taliban reportedly confirmed that they have been meeting with Pakistani, Chinese and Qatari delegations on finding a solution to the Afghan war and the visits were facilitated by Pakistan, yet there was no confirmation given by the Pakistan officials on this statement.

By the end of the month, there were terrorist attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan which killed hundreds of innocent people. President Trump said that; “They’re killing people left and right. Innocent people being killed left and right, so we don’t want to talk with the Taliban. There may be a time, but it’s going to be a long time”. Taliban react sharply to this statement of President, saying that: “We have always maintained, the true authority of war and peace is not with the Kabul regime but with the American invaders, and the recent statement by Trump made this matter brighter than the sun”. However, the US officials gave contrary comments to Donald Trump saying that the US will remain committed to forging peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Pakistani officials too strongly condemned President Trump’s statement saying that the solution to Afghan issue is not militarization but peace talks and Pakistan will support any peace talks with the Afghan Taliban.

In Feb 2018, President Ghani offered direct talks with the Taliban without any precondition but they were rejected by Taliban. By the end of February, the Taliban wrote an open letter calling on to the American people and peace-loving congressmen, expressing their desire for the peace talks. The Taliban rejected to enter into any negotiations with the Afghan government without discussing the withdrawal of foreign troops with its powerful ally. The letter highlights that if the US is going to continue with its present policy, the situation will remain the same even for hundred years. There is no positive outcome of Trump’s policy in the last six months since Trump initiated a new strategy for Afghanistan by increasing the number of troops and the use of force.  President Ghani repeatedly offered peace talks with the Taliban but they poured cold water on invitation from Afghanistan government.

In the next months, there was complete silence from Taliban, however other parties to conflict especially Afghan government, Pakistan and the US was pushing the Taliban to join the peace talks. However, throughout the month of May, the Taliban signaled their willingness to join the peace talks and by the end of the month, they were in talks with the Afghan government. Yet there was no as such outcome of the dialogue between two parties.

In June the US asked Pakistan to facilitate the Afghan-Taliban peace talks. A ceasefire was observed between the two parties over the period of Eid which ended by 30 June by President Ghani but the offer for peace talks remained open. The ceasefire was of 17 days, which is the most in the 17 years of war. The offer by the Afghan government was again rejected by the Taliban. But at the same time, Afghan Taliban were in indirect talks with the US officials.

The Taliban attended the peace talks in Indonesia with the Indonesian officials and the Afghan government representatives in August. After the meeting of US state secretary Pompeo with the Pakistani officials in September, Pakistan assured to give its full support to the Peace Talks with the Afghan Taliban and within some days of meeting Afghan Taliban were preparing for new peace talks with the US on the condition that Afghan government will set free their imprisoned people.

In October, the Taliban met the US officials were directly involved in a meeting with the Taliban. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was also present in the meeting but the Taliban repeatedly show concerns to not involve their government in the talks. The US and Taliban did have a private talk without Afghan President and he was not told the details of the meeting. In November, Russia hosted an international meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow aimed at starting the peace talks after decades of war. By the end of November President Ghani formed a 12 member team to hold peace talks with the Taliban.

Within this time period, Pakistan government was releasing the Taliban leaders from the prisons to facilitate the peace talks. The Death of Maulana Sami-ul-Haq was the biggest setback in the peace process. The US president wrote a letter to the Prime minister of Pakistan seeking his help in facilitating the peace talks with the Taliban. Pakistan in response affirms to help out to bring peace to Afghanistan. After Zalmay Khalilzad concluded his visit to Pakistan, both the government and army assured that they will put in every effort to resolve the Afghan issue.

By December 15th, Pakistan delivered its promise by arranging peace talks with the Taliban on December 17th. On the same date, the Afghan and Taliban representatives meet with the US officials in the United Arab Emirates. The talks were headed by Zalmay Khalilzad, including the envoys from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and UAE. Pakistan’s role in the peace initiative was praised throughout the world as this peace talk is considered to end the 17 years long war. According to the Taliban statement, the talks concentrated on the withdrawal of foreign forces and the treatment of Taliban prisoners. US officials insist that peace could only be achieved through a settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban but the Taliban again rejected talking directly to the Afghan government as they consider them the illegitimate foreign appointed government.

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  1. This is because The Afghan Government is a proxy government with zero sway or control over Afghans.

    They are seen as an extension of the US Invasion. The Afghan Government are always on the wrong side similarly during the Soviet Invasion.

    While the US is actually making overtures of reconciliation the Afghan Government and certain elements within them whom have enjoyed exploitation of funds and resources during the war within the government whom have inflicted untold miseries to the Pashtuns people.

    The Afghan Government therefore aligns with the Indian agenda to prolong the misery and the war upon innocent Afghans and seeks to continue the corruption and seek to divide Afghanistan along sectarian lines. Such a strategy is not wanted by any party including The U.S.

    Therefore the Afghan Government rather seek forgiveness and make amends with Afghans and neighbours continue to sit with their tail between their legs.

    Moral of the story: never bet on India in a region that has f-all to do with India.

    All regional parties must support and rebuild Afghanistan and work towards a region that is integrated, interlinked via roads and highways with peaceful borders. Most of all real investment that benefit my Afghan brethren.

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