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January 19, 2020

Afghanistan’s future

Editorial

 
January 19, 2020

The Afghan Taliban have confirmed that talks with the US have resumed after being called off after an interval of some weeks due to differences over key issues. The Taliban have identified these issues as an insistence by the US that the Afghan government be involved in the process of dialogue and that a ceasefire be announced with the Ghani government. A Taliban spokesman in Doha, where talks are being held with US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, pointed out that both the US and the Taliban had already agreed on a ceasefire with the Afghan government and its armed forces. Reports also state that the Taliban high command took time to discuss and reach an agreement on the provisions of talks. They eventually decided they were not willing to involve the Afghan government or to stop attacks on the security forces.

In these circumstances, some questions arise over how peace is to be maintained. While a ten-day ceasefire with the US has been agreed on and there has been a decline in attacks on the Afghan armed forces, it is uncertain when these may resume. The Taliban, however, say that once the peace accord is signed, they will start acting on the ceasefire plan and their fighters would stop attacks including suicide bombings and target killings across Afghanistan. It is believed that, while the US and Afghan forces will both follow this protocol, the ceasefire may not be officially announced.

This is then a rather flimsy agreement. But all stakeholders in the region, including Pakistan, must hope it will hold and that ways forward will be found. A stable Afghanistan is essential to peace in the region and an end to the militancy that has since 2001 ravaged both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has, in the meantime, requested that the US ensure a ‘responsible’ withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and avoid repeating the mistakes of the pullout in the 1980s, which had created a vacuum for destructive forces to take over and was poorly planned and hastily implemented. Qureshi is currently in Washington to hold talks on regional matters. Pakistan has along the way been acting as a facilitator for talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban with which it holds a degree of influence. Peace in Afghanistan, withdrawal of US troops and a ceasefire between all fighting forces is essential to an end to bloodshed in the region and a peaceful future for both nations which have suffered the brunt of the militancy experienced since 2001.