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Editorial: Walking away, not an option!

The Afghan peace stakeholders should know better ground reality than seeking quick-fix solutions to the Afghan war and walking away from negotiations because dialogue makes things possible where abandoning it achieves nothing. The US President Donald Trump recently announced that negotiations with the Taliban – which had been ongoing for nearly a year – were over without a deal. “As far as I’m concerned, they are dead,” Trump told reporters, blaming a Taliban attack last week in which an American soldier was among 12 other people killed. In a twist of irony, the Taliban and the rest of the world, including Afghans, were astonished by Trump’s remarks. However, as much unfortunate as it seems, this proved a point for the insurgent group who had been banking on violence to strengthen their bargaining power and get the most out of the peace deal with the US. The group must have realized by now that these are the consequences of talking with the foreigners rather than the Afghans directly in the first place.

Criticism of the deal, which was said to have been reportedly agreed ‘in principle’, mounted when Afghan people were disconcerted about their future but all of a sudden the 10-month efforts seemed to be in vain after just a tweet. The insurgent group’s spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, in a recent interview with Al Jazeera, said they found the decision by Trump ‘astonishing’ because they had already concluded the peace agreement with the American negotiating team. However, the intriguing matter of them all is that the group said had the deal been signed, they would have to facilitate safe passage to US troops during their withdrawal, implying a de facto ceasefire with the US but not Afghans. This is absolutely lame; how can this be rational and even possible that the group is willingly ceasing fire against US troops while continuing to target their own Afghans? The Taliban spokesman also mentioned that the group wanted to end ‘the occupation of Afghanistan’ first and would only then discuss a ceasefire with Afghans.

At this critical juncture, all stakeholders, especially the Taliban, need to exercise caution and foresight. The excluded people of Afghanistan have been watching this increase in violence with bated breath with their anxiety about the post-accord – which didn’t happen – situation also clearly had been at an all-time high. They fear that the country doesn’t once again descend into internecine warfare. But they heaved a sigh of relief after Trump put the brakes on the Afghan peace talks. The Taliban ought to have learned their lesson by now that they shouldn’t prefer relying on foreigners over Afghans. As the group’s spokesman showed readiness to talk with Afghans, they should do it as soon as possible. They must enter into intra-Afghan talks – which the whole world now advocates – and after reaching a ceasefire and concluding a deal, they along with other Afghans could jointly decide to make foreign forces leave Afghanistan. Leaving the peace talks in limbo and walking away from them at this stage will only spawn more violence and insecurity for the battle-scarred people who have suffered for decades.

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