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December 15, 2019

Interrupted peace


December 15, 2019

Pakistan on Friday said that it is eager to see the peace process involving talks between the US and the Taliban get back on track, a day after they were interrupted. The latest disruption came after the US called off the dialogue once more following an attack on the Bagram airbase in which two persons were killed and dozens others wounded. The talks have resumed only a short while ago after a three-month suspension when President Donald Trump declared that there would be no further contacts with the Taliban following the death of a US soldier in a militant attack in Kabul.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmey Khalilzad in Islamabad on Friday to discuss the situation and consider what is the best way to bring the Afghan peace talks back on tracks. Pakistan has maintained that it is not intervening in the talks process but facilitating it for the sake of peace in the region. Pakistan’s perceived infulence with the Taliban through its historical relationship with groups that now make up the militants has been the key factor in the US request for Pakistan’s help in bringing them to the table. The key problem remains the Taliban refusal to talk to what they term the US puppet government of President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. But immediately the issue is to get the talks moving forward once again and ensure that both sides are committed to them. Frequent stops in the dialogue will not help things move forward and act only as a deterrent in the task of building trust and friendship in Afghanistan so that conflict in that country can be halted.

It is Washington which must make a decision on this. If every attack and every disagreement leads to talks simply being called off the situation could become an impossible one. Yes, the violence is not acceptable, but some of it for now needs to be challenged and handled separately, rather than as a deciding factor in the talks process. There are many factions of the Taliban active in Afghanistan. No one force can control them all. Which is why, in these circumstances, it is the wider interest of the people of Afghanistan and the region as a whole which should be kept in mind so that a settlement can be reached as soon as possible.

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