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Editorial: Quiet progress towards peace

A recent report has revealed that the US and the Taliban have engaged in serious parley about a possible release of more than 5,000 militant inmates. The 10th round of peace talks was paused in early December last year as the two sides went to consult their relevant leaderships about finalizing a peace deal. However, the US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban negotiators have been reportedly holding unofficial meetings since last week in Qatar. Meanwhile, the Taliban mouthpiece, Suhail Shaheen, has recently said that a date to sign a peace agreement with the US will be fixed in the near future. This is while a ceasefire is still a sine qua non of the Afghan government to initiate talks with the Taliban. The government doesn’t believe in the reduction of violence, saying it doesn’t make sense in legal and military terms. On top of all that, the Trump administration has once again reiterated that it would reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan even if there is no deal with the Taliban.

If the report that the negotiating sides are mulling over prisoner release is truthful, it would be an unprecedented compromise and gambit. Although it would serve as a trust-building gesture, the release of 5,000 rebels isn’t something that should be taken for granted. The Afghan government and the US should deliberate on the issue in question and its future consequences. This mammoth decision and move of setting lose the mentioned number of Taliban inmates should be carefully pondered and must be carried out with the proviso that the Taliban should agree to an armistice. Therefore, the strong push for a truce from the US and Afghan side should continue as such as it would prove effective in clinching a deal that would pave the ground for the intra-Afghan negotiations and a sustainable peace. Also, the possible inking ceremony of the US-Taliban peace accord which seems on the horizon is a welcome step forward. However, there is still uncertainty that why the unofficial meetings in Qatar haven’t advanced into official talks. On the part of the US, the country shouldn’t announce its troop withdrawal every now and then, something that puts it at a disadvantage in the parleys. It has now become obvious that the whole motivation for the US to launch negotiations was to save face and find a pretext to extricate itself from this country. Therefore, if they wish to leave, they should do so by all means and there is no need for claims over and over again. Despite all this, the recent developments herald a major breakthrough in the US-Taliban negotiations and signify that the Afghan peace process is making steady, yet quiet progress – something that has given the Afghan masses a glimmer of hope about the future.

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