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Editorial

February 13, 2018

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Continued deadlock

Continued deadlock

In a sign of the complete failure of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity conference in Islamabad, both countries were unable to even agree on a joint statement on the conclusion of talks on Saturday. Pakistan had initially proposed the APAPPS as a way of bridging differences between the two countries. It is now clear that is not about to happen in the near future. The outstanding issues are the same ones that have cropped up many times in the past. Afghanistan believes that Pakistan is helping – or at the very least refusing to take action against – the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network who then go on to launch attacks in Afghanistan. Our solution is to fence the border on the Durand Line, something that is unacceptable to Afghanistan. Pakistan’s priority seems to be a speedy repatriation of all Afghan refugees but the Afghan government believes it is still not safe for them to return. It is fair to say both countries have legitimate grievances. We can point to how the Ashraf Ghani government has not taken any action against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan bases on its soil even though it has repeatedly launched cross-border attacks. Afghanistan, meanwhile, is correct in saying the security situation in the country needs to be improved before refugees can safely return – although, of course, the Afghan government needs to take the lead in ensuring security in its own country.

The talks did throw up a curveball when it came to the always-contentious problem of negotiations with the Taliban. Whereas previously it is the Afghan government which has balked at peace talks, the recent spate of Taliban attacks and reports that it now has significant influence in over half the country has led to the realisation that the only way to bring an end to the war is through dialogue. Pakistan, which has been advising Afghanistan to do just this for years, now says that it is unable to force the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. All sides finally realise that talks with the Taliban are essential but the problem for now seems to be that the Taliban are in the ascendancy and so sees no benefit in negotiations. Ultimately, though, the Taliban will have to seek a comprehensive deal with the Afghan government. The best that can be said for the APAPPS talks is they have at least kept the lines of communication open between Pakistan and Afghanistan until such time when everyone is willing to talk peace.

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