Written by Quinlan Bourret (News Writer)
The United States and the Afghanistan government have been in a process of difficult peace talks with the Afgan terrorist organization, the Taliban. Beginning in January, there has been discussion between the two groups in hopes for peace in Afghanistan. If successful, it would result in peace in Afghanistan for the first time in decades and the United States less involved in the Middle East.
The Taliban, a far-right Islamic fundamentalist organization, would prove to be the strongest party in the Afghan Civil War, at one point controlling three-quarters of the country. The organization devastated Afghanistan with terrorism and violence. But after 9/11 the United States would invade, hoping to weaken al-Qaeda and the Taliban would lose control over virtually all of its territory.
But the US and its allies were incapable of fully defeating the Taliban and fighting would continue, now for nearly two decades. The Taliban would slowly gain more territory, now controlling 54% of the county. The war has been bloody with over a hundred thousand dead. It has further cost the US over 800 billion dollars.
Peace talks between the US, Afghanistan, and the Taliban have been attempted since the beginning of the war, but all have failed. Notable discussions occurred in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018, but they would come to nothing. On multiple occasions, the Taliban did not show up to meetings offered by Afghanistan. The Taliban has refused discussion with the Afghan government, declaring it a puppet of the US. The US would at times offer peace, but would later act aggressively, such as Obama’s decision to bring a few more thousand troops into the war. Over this period, Afghan citizens would increasingly hope for an end to the war marching in protest of the conflict in 2018.
But in February of last year, the beginning of the process of peace would materialize. The US and Taliban signed the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan. The terms of the agreement mandated that the United States withdraw all foreign troops from Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to not threaten the US in Afghanistan and to cut all ties with terrorist organizations. A mutual prisoner swap was arranged where both sides would release prisoners.
In the last year, the overall violence has decreased by 80%, mainly against soldiers and in cities but the number of attacks has increased by 70%. While the US has only 2,500 troops left in Afghanistan, upholding its side of the deal, there is evidence that the Taliban have still kept ties with al-Qaeda. Furthermore, released prisoners of the Taliban have kept fighting despite that being against the agreement.
The current peace talks began on January 4, and no beachhead has been made. Notably, many Afghan and Taliban leaders have not attended. Many believe the US is conceding too much to the Taliban, although details have not been revealed. Evidence of the Taliban failing to fulfill the side of the deal from February of last year has also made the situation difficult.
The nearby inauguration of Biden as the next US president has also slowed discussions. Biden’s approach to the situation might change it dramatically. It seems ineffective to try to reach an agreement when it could get invalidated soon. Biden’s appointed National Security Advisor has encouraged diplomacy in a similar vein to that of the February talks.
Whatever will happen then remains to be seen. There is a rare and valuable opportunity for peace to emerge in Afghanistan, but concessions will have to be made on both sides