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Editorial: Shot at a peaceful settlement

Last week, a high-level Taliban delegation led by Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdullah Ghani Baradar visited Pakistan against the backdrop of stalled peace talks. As soon as the foray came to an end, Pakistan has once again started seeking attention and credit through propagating the belief that it’s their invitation and talks with the Taliban that would lead to the launch of intra-Afghan talks. The country has also invited Chairman Abdullah Abdullah to visit the country but he has delayed the trip until the intra-Afghan talks begin. These efforts are welcomed so long as they don’t aim to hold the Afghan peace process hostage and make the Taliban do the country’s bidding that undermines Afghanistan’s sovereignty. This is while President Ashraf Ghani recently approved 48 members, including leadership and deputies, of the High National Reconciliation Council (HNRC) through a special decree in a major development towards facilitating the long-anticipated intra-Afghan negotiations. On the other hand, the intra-Afghan talks are facing delays mainly on the issue of the release of prisoners. While both sides had agreed to the release, last-minute hitches are causing concern. Earlier, France and Australia had publicly asked the Afghan government not to release Taliban prisoners convicted of attacks against their citizens. Now, a recent report by Washington Post revealed that three Afghans accused of involvement in the killing of US troops in so-called insider attacks are also among the remaining 320 hard-core Taliban prisoners, even though there hasn’t been formal objection in this regard by the US. Considering the circumstances, alternative ways should be sought out of the prisoner release impasse. It’ because a delay increases the chances of mishaps and incidents of violence flaring up and damaging the delicate situation. Moreover, the US troops are leaving Afghanistan one way or another and the Trump administration doesn’t care about the success of the intra-Afghan talks. The US is only concerned with commitments made by the Taliban to combat terrorist groups and ensure Afghanistan is not used as a staging ground for attacks on the US and its allies. Therefore, an early launch of all-Afghan talks is in the interest of all sides as it’s a long, arduous process with obstacles that may threaten talks at any point, as well as bring about many issues that need resolution. Currently, Afghanistan has a genuine shot at a peaceful settlement of the decades-long conflict and this window of opportunity shouldn’t be missed.

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