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Editorial: The progress made so far

It’s agreed upon that the peace process in Afghanistan is not an affair to be solved overnight. There are many issues and stumbling blocks to be anticipated before sustainable peace is reached. By far, the implementation of the US-Taliban pact signed in February has been ticklish as sides were locked in a logjam over prisoner swap mechanism. After extreme American pressure, the Afghan government was nonetheless compelled to announce a compromise with the militant group in late March but it wasn’t long before the talks broke down again last week over who would get freed. However, following initially balking at a prisoner release, the Afghan government, which was sidelined from negotiations that led to the US-Taliban deal, has released 300 militants since last week. Meanwhile, the Taliban returned the favor by freeing 20 prisoners – the first public release of detainees by the insurgent group since it inked the agreement with the US – on Sunday. Prisoner releases are a key part of the US deal with the Taliban because they facilitate the conducive conditions for foreign forces’ complete withdrawal within 14 months and the launch of intra-Afghan peace negotiations. Therefore, the recent goodwill gestures, which kick-started the bumpy peace process, on the part of the belligerent parties should continues steadily and even further expedited against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic – a deadly phenomenon that already necessitates the release of prisoners to avert their infection. It’s because, without any progress along the peace continuum, all these parties would be back to square one – which is the battlefield. Therefore, they should realize that if talks fail, it would be back to the intensified war, meaning more of the same bloodshed that has been Afghanistan’s fate for the past few decades. That is why both the Taliban and the Afghan government must shun their maximalist positions of attempting to get the most out of the situation and should instead accept compromises. This will in turn help the next phase of the peace process to be initiated. Sticking to uncompromising stances will benefit no one and will only further complicate the ongoing fragile peace negotiations and negatively impact the progress made so far.

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