KT Edit: What do Afghans want from the peace process?

The Trump administration should work with the Afghan government and regional powers to reach a political settlement.

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Published: Sun 27 Jan 2019, 7:49 PM

Last updated: Sun 27 Jan 2019, 9:50 PM

Afghanistan is in a quandary. Whether the US and other foreign troops leave or not, the prospects of peace remain distant. Seventeen years of the Resolute Support's - a Nato-led mission - presence has made no difference. A weak and ineffective government, which has failed to provide basic services and security to its citizens; rampant corruption; interests of neighbouring countries; and the international community's reluctance to follow up on its promises have left Afghanistan in the hands of terrorists. The Taleban now controls more of Afghanistan than at any point, and conducts attacks in every major Afghan city, sowing death and destruction. In fact, the US involvement in Afghanistan has come full circle, with little result. From a light footprint of 350 special operations forces and 100 CIA paramilitary units, supported by US air power in 2001, the troop strength rose to 100,000 American soldiers and over 40,000 Nato and other foreign troops by 2010, which has now reduced to about 15,000. After the announcement of withdrawal of American troops from Syria, the US is now looking at a major pullout from Afghanistan. The latest draft peace pact - at the end of talks between US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taleban - sets out withdrawal within 18 months.
A hurried US withdrawal could prove a mistake and undermine the Western-backed Afghan government. A beleaguered Afghan National Security Forces will be unable to stave off any stepped-up demands from the Taleban resulting in the resurgence of terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Haqqani Network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The Taleban, already in a strong position, could see the US withdrawal as a weakening stance. With assistance from countries like Iran and Russia, they could seize cities like Kandahar and Kabul. A stronger Taleban would also mean the deterioration of human rights. Though the potential withdrawal will end America's longest war, the Trump administration should work with the Afghan government and regional powers to reach a political settlement with the Taleban, though it remains to be seen if the Taleban are genuinely seeking peace. Any talk without all parties concerned will prove futile. Hence the Afghan government should be a party to the talks for long-standing peace.

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