Is peace finally in sight for Afghanistan?

Image Credit: ResoluteSupportMedia

Faseeha Hashmi

In a bid to end the two-decade protracted war, a definitive peace process is finally underway in the landlocked country of Afghanistan. Acknowledging the co-signing of a peace agreement between the Taliban and the US, there remains a considerable way to go in achieving lasting peace with the Taliban in a post-conflict Afghanistan. With Washington’s impending withdrawal, the question arises as to how the Afghan government will manifest a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban.

The current administration in Kabul faces numerous challenges to its legitimacy that extend beyond the Taliban. Indeed, settling the score amongst competing political actors demonstrates a treacherous path forward. The future of Afghanistan hangs in the balance. What exactly will it take for peace to become a reality for the Afghani people, or are current peace efforts doomed to falter?

How will the US-Taliban deal create peace?

The US has a checkered history with the Taliban. Beginning in 2001, Washington invaded Afghanistan in pursuit of the international terrorist organisation, Al-Qaeda. The main insurgent group fighting against the Afghan government and coalition forces, known as the “students,” then granted sanctuary to Al-Qaeda and its now-deceased former leader Osama Bin Laden.

Following years of fighting, diplomatic and peace efforts intensified in 2018 between the Taliban and Washington. These efforts gave rise to the US-Taliban deal, officially signed on 29 February 2020 in Qatar's capital, Doha. Under the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan (also known as the “Withdrawal Accord”), Washington agreed to discontinue all US and coalition operations in Afghanistan within the following 14 months. In return, Taliban leaders have committed a reduction in armed violence and pledged not to cooperate with terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda. In addition, to encourage the key players to the Accord, a prisoner swap was incorporated as part of the deal. While these exchanges have helped to propel dialogue, the promises made by the Taliban to meet those goals have been vague and it has been difficult to ensure compliance.

As the Accord’s name suggests, the government of Afghanistan is not a party to it. Woefully, this constitutes a missing and crucial ingredient to long-term peace. Open dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban in a power-sharing arrangement is a necessity. Therefore, the intra-Afghan dialogue is fundamental as both sides must continue to coexist in a post-US exodus era. This will require the arrangement of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire between the warring sides. However, there are no publicly available details on how such a roadmap will materialise.