Although there is not much hype surrounding the US-Taliban peace talks since they were paused earlier this month in the wake of a Taliban attack on Bagram Air Base, it seems the talks have been quietly forging ahead and some developments have been made. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the Taliban’s leadership council has agreed to a weeklong ceasefire. This is while politicians who had met the chief US envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad during his latest visit to Kabul confirmed that the US and Taliban negotiators had agreed upon a conditional ceasefire. Meanwhile, according to some US and Afghan officials, Khalilzad had demanded a ten-day Taliban ceasefire before the signing of any deal and the recent report shows Khalilzad has been successful in that endeavor. If there is some truth to this report, a truce can be considered a great development in the peace process as the insurgents had so far refused to stop fighting.
This armistice step would pave the way for an agreement with the US and set stage for their troop drawdown. Moreover, the circumstances suggest that with the turn of the year and as early as next month, a peace deal between the negotiating sides would be signed and thus the path would be paved for the launch of intra-Afghan talks on a comprehensive settlement of the 18-year Afghan war. It’s also a welcoming move because since the resumption of direct US-Taliban talks in July 2018, both sides have so far pursued a fight-and-talk strategy as the US and the Afghan government intensified its counter-insurgency attacks and the Taliban also increased violence. On the other hand, there is the issue of observing a ceasefire with the US and not the Afghan security forces. A Taliban bomb attack claimed the lives of at least 10 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers in southern Helmand province on Saturday. This action by the insurgents is an utterly pathetic attempt and their position towards Afghan security forces is lamentable. How can one justify agreeing to a ceasefire with foreign troops and not with Afghan soldiers? It’s advisable for the insurgent group to thoroughly weigh up its options in this regard because an irresponsible and reckless move of theirs would add to the contempt that Afghan masses harbor towards them. As much as it seems a political gambit for the Taliban, they should take this opportunity and thus show they are willing and capable of fulfilling the Afghans’ desire for peace. In return, this action of theirs will win people’s hearts and would help the rebels’ reintegration process into Afghan society after a potential peace agreement.