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Editorial: Talks’ revival warrants catalytic role

Just when the whole world was expecting an imminent peace deal between the US and the Taliban negotiators last month, the speedy momentum of the Afghan peace process perished as the US President Donald Trump announced the talks as ‘dead’, citing the perpetuating violence by the Taliban, whose attack killed 12 innocent Afghans and a US soldier and wounded many other innocents at that time in Kabul. As a result, Trump then divulged that a secret meeting with the Taliban leaders and the Afghan President at Camp David in Washington, DC, was canceled as well. This nearly a month of hiatus in the process allowed Afghans to exercise their right of suffrage as they participated in the polls to elect their next president. Meanwhile, the Taliban, since the breakdown of talks, have consistently called for resumption; however, Trump last week in a way signaled openness to return to the table to end the 18-year-old war as he said, “the single greatest mistake our country made, in its history, was going into the quicksand.”  He also recently tweeted on his Twitter handle: “Endless wars must end.”

On the other hand, a recent report published by the Wall Street Journal revealed that the US officials and representatives of the Afghan Taliban have begun discussing ways to revive the peace process, citing people familiar with the discussions. This comes as the top US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, met with the Taliban in Pakistan earlier this month – which was not an official resumption of talks – and conferred on confidence-building measures that could include a possible prisoner swap or a reduction in violence. These developments show that it is now an opportune moment to bring the peace talks back on track because the presidential election is out of the way. The Taliban should, however, know that ceasefire is still a sine qua non of peace in Afghanistan. Since the US and the Taliban sides have resolved all outstanding issues during their nearly-one-year of talks, the only thing that remains is the signing of the agreement – which the insurgents have shown readiness for. Subsequently, they should then act upon the agreement and later on let Afghans fend for themselves to resolve the issues and reconcile. This gives some optimistic outlook for the war-scarred country and, now as usual, people are expecting a looming tweet from Trump who would call the negotiations as ‘animate’ again and hopefully it would open the door for a revival of a full-fledged peace process with fruitful results this time.

At this critical juncture, there are apprehensions about what would be the stance of the new government – which would emerge in a span of few weeks as election’s preliminary results are set for Oct. 19 – regarding sitting on the table with the Taliban? Only time will tell what will come about. Currently, there is also a need for sincere support from the regional countries because currently they can play a catalytic role in the peace process. Another fearsome issue is the tackling of terrorist groups after reaching a peaceful settlement with the Taliban. Henceforth, the regional countries should synergize their energies to counter such a threat and global terrorism. Moreover, the Taliban must reconsider their approach to sheltering terrorists and facilitating them a hotbed. If they seek to be reintegrated into Afghan politics, they must cut all links with terrorist groups – something that, lest they forget, was the main reason that prompted the US invasion in the first place.

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