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Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks Commence

Salil Kale

16th September 2020

Peace discourse commences between Taliban and Afghan officials in Doha, Qatar. (Source: The New York Times)

A historic chain of events was put into motion with the Afghan-Taliban peace talks that commenced on 12th September 2020. The leaders of both governments met in the Gulf state of Qatar to negotiate over the future of Afghanistan.

The situation in Afghanistan, however, will not be dissolved with ease, considering past attempts. Conflict has been raging in the Middle East for almost 4 decades, starting with the proxy war between Iran and Iraq in the early 1980s, followed by the direct entry of the United States in 2001.

To create a facilitating atmosphere for these talks, many provisions were set up. A prominent measure is the reduction in US troop presence from 12,000 to 8,600, with plans to completely withdraw all forces by mid-2021, reports the Council on Foreign Relations.

There were hopes by the Afghan negotiators that the Taliban would break ties with al-Qaeda and reduce infiltration, but these demands have not been met. The Taliban, on their end, stated they would ensure no other militant groups operated in areas under their control.

A massive prisoner swap of around 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan security personnel was negotiated. There were reports of the talks being held as early as March, but repeated violence in the country and issues with the prisoner swap led to multiple delays.

The peace talks in Doha are the first of their kind as the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government have never directly metnot since the Soviet invasion in 1979. There is still a lot of hope on both sides of the negotiations to accomplish even a minor semblance of peace in the region after decades of violence.

Meanwhile, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy representing Afghanistan, landed in Delhi for a brief 4-hour visit. During this, he met with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla, The Hindu reports.

A statement issued by the US Embassy in Delhi stated, “The United States and India share the view that the peace process must continue until there is an agreement on a political roadmap and a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire. The Afghan sides must ensure their territory must not be used by any terrorist group against any other country”. The embassy was also referring to the possible Taliban-ISI links between Afghanistan and the Indian side, as reported by The Times of India. Mr. Khalilzad had positive sentiments towards a possible India-Taliban discourse, according to an interview with The Hindu in May, 2020.

(Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, BBC, The Hindu, New York Times, Times of India)

Edited by Nayana Dhanya

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