Talks With Taliban

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INTRA-Afghan talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have resumed in Doha, the first time after assumption of office by Joe Biden in the US. The recent weeks have witnessed an escalating graph of violence in the war-torn country. Biden administration has sought to review the agreement reached between the Trump administration and Taliban in February last year. There is an emerging consensus about the delay in withdrawal deadline. The US is also toying with the idea of leaving behind an intelligence-based force that would focus on ‘counterterrorism’ and the ISIS affiliate in eastern Afghanistan.

But Taliban wants the US to stick to the agreement. Last week, the Taliban in an open letter called on the US to abide by the Doha agreement and assured it of its commitment to securing US security interests in the country. The Taliban have also opposed even a brief extension of withdrawal deadline.

There are 10,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan including 2500 US troops. In the weeks ahead, it will be important to see how the US will review the Doha accord. It is, however, unlikely that the Biden administration will depart in any conspicuous way from the accord. Already, the US has retained the diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the US agreement with the Taliban. At the same time, the US has also reached out to Pakistani and its Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Pakistan’s participation is seen as critical to the success of the Doha accord and consequent peace in Afghanistan. As of now, the US wants a drastic reduction of violence and the Taliban agreeing to a ceasefire.

However, it will be a while before the the US-Taliban and the Taliban-Afghan government reaches its logical conclusion and peace returns to the country. Eventually the stability in Afghanistan will have to be the responsibility of the regional powers. The conflict in Afghanistan is now so much enmeshed with the regional rivalries and the issues that it appears improbable that there would be long term stability in Kabul unless steps are taken to get the regional countries cooperate to end the forty year long bloodshed in the country. The deeply challenging project of a peaceful Afghanistan, therefore, demands a broader regional cooperation, more so, between India and Pakistan. It is only hoped that New Delhi and Islamabad realizing the momentous changes sweeping through region will cooperate to not only steer the region through the fraught transition of a post-US Afghanistan but also take concrete steps to address their lingering differences which alone will be the guarantee for a sustainably peaceful South Asia and the broader region.

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