Afghan Peace Process- Talks resume with Taliban

Afghan Peace Process
It has been 19 years that Taliban has been fighting against US and allied forces in Afghanistan with no end in sight.

Reliable sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan indicated beginning of a fresh session of the lately stalled peace talks with Taliban to discuss the Afghan peace deal. A conference in this regard is being held in Moscow.

The Taliban and the United States began peace talks last year. They were close to agreeing on a partial withdrawal of US forces from the country after several rounds of talks in Doha, Pakistan, China, Europe, Russia and multiple guarantors and stakeholders, but talks were suspended last month by US President Donald Trump following a terror attack by the Taliban killing one US soldier. However, even shortly before it Strategic Cognizance Forum (SCF) was skeptical of the talks making headway as Pompeo reportedly declined in early September to put his name on the deal citing lack of trust and question on shape of future Afghanistan. Besides back then there was strong resistance from Afghan government who rejected concluding any peace deal with Talibans before then upcoming Presidential elections in Afghanistan. The resumption of talks now after a brief halt is thus a good sign.

File photo from previous Afghan dialogue in Russia

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had always been adamant that a possible troop withdrawal should be discussed with the Afghan government, and expressed displeasure about his government’s exclusion from the US-Taliban negotiations. The Taliban on the other hand has always rejected direct talks with the government, which they called a puppet of the US. Rahmatullah Nabil, a former intelligence chief who was one of Mr. Ghani’s challengers in Afghan presidential election, also shares his concerns, saying, criticizing the way the United States had negotiated with the Taliban, said that the complicated mix of two difficult processes — the withdrawal talks and the election — has created deep uncertainty for both.

However, recently Ghani has said that he would be delighted if the Taliban turn themselves into a political party, and so some ice appears to have melted and Taliban on the sidelines may also meet directly with officials of Afghan government during the upcoming fresh session of peace talks in Moscow.

Reportedly, after the abrupt pull out from North Syria, the United States recently has started drawing up plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan, NBC has reported, citing three current and former US defense officials. The contingency planning is ongoing, and includes the possibility of President Donald Trump ordering all American troops out of Afghanistan within weeks, wrote the NBC in an article, quoting current and former US defense officials as saying. But the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said otherwise on Monday and has emphasised on the continuation of US counterterrorism operations for peace in Afghanistan.

A UN tally found last year was the deadliest on record, with at least 3,804 civilian deaths caused by the war – including 927 children. And according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 217,000 people had to flee their homes because of fighting during the first seven months of 2019, prompting a huge need for humanitarian aid across the war-torn nation. Almost US$D 1.2 trillion have been wasted. Roughly 350,000 people have died. Terrorism is rising. People are becoming more and more intolerant.

If an agreement is reached between US and Taliban on Afghan peace process, it would set the stage for the withdrawal of most American forces by the end of November 2020, and the Taliban would ensure the following three things: i.e. open direct negotiations with the U.S.-backed Afghan government; reduce violence near areas U.S. forces control; and keep foreign militants out of the areas they control, according to current and former U.S., Afghan and European officials, who all spoke anonymously to describe the sensitive and fractious deliberations.

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