Opposite directions

 
September 23, 2020

The talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani are not going well. After the elaborate ballroom function, attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, some...

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The talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani are not going well. After the elaborate ballroom function, attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, some days ago in Doha, there has been no real progress in the process, which is intended to bring a lasting peace to Afghanistan and to its people. Instead, we are told the two sides are diametrically opposed to each other, and that the Taliban are not willing to agree to any kind of ceasefire. There is also a lack of agreement over rights of women, minorities and other marginalised groups.

The issues created by the Taliban's crackdown on these groups were, of course, visible during their previous tenure in power. Women are alarmed that there may be a return to those days, although the Taliban say that under Sharia law, they will permit education for women. This, however, is obviously an insufficient guarantee. No one can say for now if even the promises made will be kept, and there are not enough promises to keep the peace process floating happily or moving along as Afghanistan tries to find the peace that has eluded it for decades. By May next year, there has to be a complete pull out of foreign troops from the country. Most American troops will have left by November this year. It is therefore an urgent necessity for the Afghan people to themselves discover some way to move towards a peaceful settlement of the civil war that has torn their country apart. The Taliban have consistently refused to recognize the government of President Ghani, and say that it is simply a puppet regime set up by the US. Other analysts would agree. But the Taliban had told the US they would talk to this government, and the problems being faced now suggest that there are flaws in the process negotiated by the US and facilitated by Pakistan.

So far, there seems to be no real willingness to move towards anything that can bring calm and lasting agreement in Afghanistan. There are too many differences between the views held by both sides. Whether these can be calmed and a way found to bridge the gap is difficult to say for now. There is no arbitration taking place at the present time. The Afghan government is clearly displeased with the direction in which the talks are headed, as are the Taliban. And because of this breakdown, the US will not be happy either. A failure in Afghanistan would reflect extremely badly on it. But most important of all are the Afghan people. They cannot afford another failure in the process and another war which further wrecks their country and puts people in very real danger.



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