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Editorial: Byzantine peace parleys

As the US and the Taliban rejuvenated peace talks in Doha a few days back – more than two months after US President Donald Trump abruptly halted the process – public optimism with regard to a peace deal is at its peak. Afghans hope this time around the peace parleys would culminate in tangible results by putting an end to Afghan mire. The Taliban have also signaled that they are willing to announce a ceasefire with the US forces – and not the Afghan forces – if they halt all military operations against the militant movement. Reports suggest that the Americans want to seal a deal by the end of this month and that the insurgents would then launch the intra-Afghan negotiations within 10 days after agreement with the US is inked. Even though this deadline seems ambitious, it’s not utterly impossible. It’s because the Taliban have yet again achieved greater leverage in talks as they know the Americans are suffering from battle fatigue and wish to somehow extricate themselves from this country. Their bargaining power has now been further strengthened as a recent report by the Washington Post quoted documents in which American officials have themselves said the war in Afghanistan is “unwinnable”.

Although the US has not said this publicly, confidential documents revealed US officials did not tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan and hid evidence. The documents divulged that senior US officials distorted statistics to make it appear that the US was winning the war in Afghanistan while the ground reality was to the contrary. This report lends weight to the Taliban’s beliefs and gives them the opportunity to negotiate from a further stronger position. It’s because they know that America has learned – just like the USSR before it – with the wisdom of hindsight that getting involved in the Afghan theatre is quite simple but extricating oneself from this quagmire is a much more difficult task. Therefore, they think the Washington administration would somehow compromise on anything to get out of here. But to one’s surprise, this report comes out at a time when the Afghan peace talks are getting momentum and the US President Donald Trump has resolved to bring American troops back to their country before 2020 Presidential Election – as part of his reelection bid to present his achievements to the American public and gain their votes. This gives the impression that Afghans’ fate is a victim of Americans’ left-right political tensions. Bringing to the fore that America has miserably failed in Afghanistan at this point in time suggests the Democrats want to botch Trump’s plans whether it is his reelection bid or withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, whose byproduct is making peace with the Taliban. The status quo is playing in the favor of the Taliban and has made the peace parleys much more byzantine because American hastiness to withdraw means conceding insurgents’ demands and wishes.

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