Although a brake is put on the US-Taliban peace negotiations, which had been restarted last week, Afghans are currently optimistic more than ever for a peaceful solution to Afghanistan’s decades-long conflict and mire. The US is seemingly apt to finally make peace with the Taliban, something that would possibly entail its troops’ complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. The recent development in the talks came late on Tuesday as the US Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul. The envoy met with Afghan leaders and some political elites – sitting with each of these stakeholders separately – to update them on the status of peace negotiations. These strides of Khalilzad to keep every Afghan stakeholder in the picture and meet them individually are cumbersome and show a lack of a general consensus among them on the matter of peace. This situation generally bodes ill for the Afghan nation as it suggests that all of them are promoting their own interests because they don’t come together to represent a united voice.
This is while Khalilzad’s Kabul trip comes after a break was called in the US-Taliban negotiations following a Taliban-claimed attack on Bagram airbase on December 11. Before the break, sources said that the discussions were focused on a reduction of violence, a ceasefire and intra-Afghan negotiations. After the break, he had also visited Pakistan for talks with senior civilian and military leadership there and then returned to Qatar of Doha. But a latest twist in the talks happened when some quoted US officials saying that the peace talks in Doha could be derailed by Taliban’s refusal to declare a 10-day ceasefire. The US has reportedly floated the idea to sign a peace deal during the ceasefire. Moreover, the US Secretary Defense Mark Esper made it clear that imminent US troop drawdown in Afghanistan was not tied to a peace agreement and that his country was mulling over lowering its troops’ numbers here.
On the other hand, Russia believes Washington is in no mood to draw down its forces from Afghanistan as rifts among Americans have created confusion in this regard. The Russian Security Council Secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, accused US of fueling insecurity in Afghanistan in his address to participants of the second session of the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan, which is ongoing in Tehran. In this state of uncertainty and lack of consensus on this matter among the regional countries and the US, the onus is on the Afghan leaders to join forces and unanimously support this vital peace process. They should take forth a single agenda – which should be of bringing a sustainable and acceptable peace to Afghanistan – and not indulge in stand-alone strategies and consultations with the US which ensure only their interests and not of the country’s. Their unanimous support is something that would help show the world that the Afghan stakeholders are carrying a single voice of peace.