We had perhaps never expected Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network which the US has been talking about for ages, would be writing a column in the New York Times. The fact that this has...
We had perhaps never expected Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network which the US has been talking about for ages, would be writing a column in the New York Times. The fact that this has happened, with Haqqani stressing the desire of the Taliban for peace, has shown how much has changed as far as the Afghanistan situation goes. After a long deadlock the US and the Taliban seem to have managed to open the door in their effort to allow peace into Afghanistan. A, agreement is thought to lie right around the corner. The talks that were abruptly called off by President Trump in September, after the death of a single US soldier in Kabul, resumed in Doha last month and now US diplomats seem certain that they are on the brink of a deal. There has been no basic change in the framework originally laid out. Basically, the US is to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban promise not to allow the country to be used by international terrorist groups. However, after talks appeared to run into barriers last month the US added some sweeteners. One of these is an agreement that the Taliban agree to a seven-day “reduction in violence” before the US signs any deal. In addition, some prisoners whose release was demanded by the Taliban will also be freed.
It is uncertain what the future will be for Afghanistan. The Trump administration is naturally desperate to pull out of Afghanistan and may opt to do so regardless of whether it can build a ceasefire capable of lasting for a period of time. Precisely what the clause a “reduction in violence” written into preliminary documents means has not been clarified and the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which has now been declared the winner of the Afghan elections held last year, has not been included in the talks. The relationship between this government and the Taliban will be central to the future.
The Taliban are primarily interested in moving back into the political mainstream. It is also likely that their ability to gain a better grasp over the country will increase once the US withdraws some of all of its troops. How the Afghan government handles this is to be seen. The US has carried out similar pullouts in the past, to serve its own purposes. There is no reason to believe this will not happen again. It is unclear what power is available to the US to rein in the Taliban should they expand violence after a US withdrawal. The Afghan government is still being left out of the picture and analysts argue that the whole exercise is simply a face-saving effort staged by Washington and that in the longer run it will not help build the lasting stability that the region requires in order to ensure longer term peace and an end to a continuing militancy. We shall see.