Engaging with the Taliban — a tricky affair

Amongst the many initiatives to end the Afghan conflict, the one led by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is critical for it has given the Taliban a direct hotline of sorts to America. In fact, the US is doing precisely what it had refused to do in 2002 when the Taliban had assured a “discussion to turn over Osama bin Laden” if America stopped bombing Afghanistan.

Seventeen years later, the situation has only deteriorated and the Taliban, which is reportedly openly active in 70 per cent of Afghanistan, only “promises to deny al-Qaeda and the Islamic State a foothold on Afghan soil” against the pull-out of the American troops. The urgency with which America wants its “boys back home” does not resonate much with the current developments and with the stakeholders in the US (recall Jim Mattis’ public resignation) and abroad.

First, these negotiations are to negotiate. Khalilzad has taken almost four months to clarify that his peace agreement is not the same as a withdrawal agreement. Read More

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