Over the course of the past week, representatives from the Taliban, along with those from the United States and other invested parties, have met in Abu Dhabi to try and find a way forward to ending the cycle of violence that has engulfed Afghanistan since the beginning of the millennium. It’s a peace process that’s long-needed and one that if indeed it ultimately proves successful should bring an element of peace and security to the nation — elements that have been in short supply recently. Truly, for that to happen, the only practical way forward is to somehow build on a dialogue to find a political and inclusive solution.
The talks in Abu Dhabi too will have taken on a new and timely significance, given that United States President Donald Trump has, following his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, now indicated that he would be drawing down the number of military personnel stationed in Afghanistan as well. And without the counsel of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis now, there will be a greater onus on reaching a deal with the Taliban. Washington believes that any eventual peace settlement must be agreed between the warring Afghan sides, but the Taliban have so far refused to talk directly with the Afghan government, claiming it is an illegitimate foreign-appointed regime. Nevertheless, getting the Taliban and the US to talk, even in these early tentative stages, is a good first — and essential — step.
Since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in America, the conflict there has inflicted suffering on broad swathes of the Afghan nation. Despite the intervention of Nato nations in a stabilisation force, a huge investment in training and equipping Afghan security forces, and the efforts of successive governments in Kabul, the Taliban influence remains strong, as the group has shown that it has the capability of seemingly striking at times and places of its choosing.
Since becoming president, Trump initially increased the US presence on the ground and its warplanes now conduct air strikes at a stepped-up pace, but the conflict still continues. Now, more than ever, the people of Afghanistan crave a future free of violence, one where all have the right to education, and where a modern and progressive society can develop while also recognising the importance of traditional values, culture and heritage. The meeting between the US and Taliban represents a significant step forward in itself. But now there is a need for more than tentative first steps. A political solution is needed and that will require a leap of faith in ensuring peaceful coexistence — the sooner the better for all in Afghanistan.