Afghanistan: Towards a peace deal?

How optimistic are you about achieving a (comprehensive) peace plan for Afghanistan and what are the biggest obstacles you see?  Read few comments.

Slovak soldiers in Afghanistan. Credit: Andrej Matisak

Jorrit KammingaSenior Visiting Fellow, Netherlands Institute for International Relations Clingendael

I think it is quite ironic that everybody is now getting excited about a peace process that excludes the Afghan government while we have been working on and investing heavily in strengthening democracy and building a legitimate government during 17 years. Besides, the central piece of this negotiation seems to be the withdrawal of foreign troops, which in essence has nothing to do with future reconciliation between Afghans.

In fact, troop withdrawal would of course happen at some point anyway, which seems to suggest that, at least for the US, these talks are more about withdrawing as soon as possible (already hinted at in December by officials of the US Administation when possible plans to withdraw half of the troops sooner) and doing that without losing face.

But, having said that, I think talking is always good. Better than fighting anyway. So if these talks, exclusive as they may be and ignoring Afghan ownership, would somehow help to put on track a formal peace process between the government and the Taliban, they would definitely have value. If not, it will have proven to be just the next useless round of often disconnected peace initiatives by parties having very different agendas and stakes in all of this.

Thomas RuttigCo-director, Afghanistan Analysts Network

It is positive that the US and the Taleban seem to work seriously on ending the war. This is in accordance with the wishes of most Afghans, as the three-day June 2018 ceasefire has shown. However, that the Afghan government is not directly involved in the talks – because the Taleban block this so far – is a major stumbling block on the way to achieve piece. There needs to be buy in not only buy the government but also of the public – but in the moment the feeling in Afghanistan seems to be that an agreement is reached over their heads and that afghans will be facing an agreement as a fait accompli.

Abdulaziz SachedinaProfessor, Chair in Islamic Studies, George Mason University

I am cautiously optimistic that with the pressure from Gulf, the Taliban might outwardly agree to have peace between the warring factions in Afghanistan.  This also means that money will be coming as “aid” to Taliban from Gulf coffers.  However, I doubt if there will be real commitment from Taliban, whose credibility depends on their uncompromising opposition to American intervention and their role as advancing Islamic political agenda in the region.  Unfortunately, there is lot of “double-talk” in Afghanistan politics and any compromise on the part of any group is seen as a “weakness” and that shatters any real hope for peace.  Knowing the region’s culture more intimately, I doubt if the “tribal” psychology can overcome the need for peaceful coexistence to advance the good of all citizens of Afghanistan.  The Shi’ite-Sunni divide and atrocities committed against Shi’ites looms large and the Taliban goal to establish a so-called “Salafi” Islam in that country will generate more violence and bloodshed in the coming months.  As we say, “only God knows the truth of the matter.”

David IsbyPolitical and Defense Analyst, Author of Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires

What it has appeared to negotiate is a move to end the US military presence.  In theory, this is to be desired as boosting the legitimacy of the Afghan government.  But to a large extent this appears to be a fig leaf covering up that the current US administration wishes to follow its predecessor in wishing to claim that it is ending a commitment it does not wish to spend resources – military, political or economic – on in the longer term.  Afghanistan is a land of carpet dealers and horse traders.  They know when someone is bargaining from a weak position.

James M. DorseySenior Fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University

This is more progress than has been achieved  in the past. There are nonetheless still significant hurdles including the fact that the Taliban leadership and the Afghan government have to accept the terms. The coming days will be telling in that regard. Ultimately, the Taliban will have to talk to the government which they have so far refused.


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