Brokering peace between the Taliban and the Afghan government has been a recent trend discussed by officials on all sides of the conflict in the Afghan war — the United States, the Afghans, and even the Taliban have all expressed some level of interest in this future.
This is not a process that will materialize easily — if it can happen at all. The fighting continues and it has not shown signs of letting up — the U.N. recently said that, “Covering the period 1 January to 30 June 2018, findings include the killing of more civilians in the first six months of this year — 1,692 deaths — than at any comparable time over the last ten years since records have been kept.” While the casualty numbers overall have gone down, the actual civilian deaths continue to rise.
The United States has historically sought to let the Afghan government manage all the peace talks, in an effort to allow them to continue to rise as the sole power in the area. Despite the relentless violence, they were able to secure a three-day truce and continue with talks of peace. During these discussions that seem to happen at an arm’s length, the Taliban have only expressed interest in peace with the Afghan government so long as the United States has left the country and is relatively uninvolved in its future.
With that said, when it comes to actual peace talks, the Taliban has rarely been interested in speaking directly with the Afghan government (the truce being an exception, and the discussions were not so direct). They literally call them a “puppet” government and see the United States as the power that is ultimately pulling the strings. In that spirit, they have only expressed interest in speaking directly to the American government in these matters.
Now it seems that the White House is willing to oblige them in these demands. They have sent envoys to meet with the Taliban to discuss a possibility for peace. However, these meetings take a significant amount of coordination, not to mention the security concerns for the diplomats involved. There is a good chance that something will go wrong and these meetings will never happen at all. However, many are hopeful that they will be able to begin the long process of brokering peace between the two Afghan parties. Gen. John Nicholson said that, “Our Secretary of State, Mr. Pompeo, has said that we, the United States, are ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces.”
One major point of contention between the United States and the Taliban during these talks will likely be the existence of Sharia law. If the Taliban agrees to become a recognized political party within Afghanistan, there probably be one of two outcomes: Sharia law is allowed only in Taliban districts, or Sharia law is not allowed at all. The latter of those may prove to be an impasse for the Taliban, but much could change should these new peace talks occur.
Featured image: U.S. forces leave the scene after a suicide attack followed by clashes between Afghan forces and Islamic State fighters during an attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. | AP Photo/Rahmat Gul