Elusive deal adds to Afghan uncertainty - GulfToday

Elusive deal adds to Afghan uncertainty

Donald Trump

With US President Donald Trump calling off a planned “secret” meeting with the Taliban and the latter claiming that his abrupt decision would lead to fresh losses to American lives, peace seems to further elude Afghan people who have been yearning for an end to senseless violence that has gripped the country for years.

Civilians have suffered immensely for too long due to endless insurgency. Heinous terrorist attacks have kept civilians and their families in perpetual tension.

A generation of children has witnessed nothing but violence, and instead of studying at schools and playing in the gardens, most of them have been forced to endure unimaginable misery.

During the nearly 18 years since the United States went to war in Afghanistan, the number of US troops there reached as high as 100,000 and then plummeted after the 2011 killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden to some 14,000.

Trump has been looking for a deal as he has often dubbed it ridiculous that the US is still in Afghanistan after 18 years and billions of dollars spent.

He has now cited a Taliban attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a US soldier, as his prime reason for calling off the talks.

However, that has raised questions as to why the latest death would derail the negotiations on the apparent brink of a deal when over 2,400 US service members have been killed in nearly 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan.

Washington has recalled US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad to Washington to chart the path forward, adding to the uncertainty.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on his part, has warned Taliban to stick to its words on peace. His argument is that the US has also been inflicting a toll on the Taliban, with the US forces having killed more than 1,000 insurgents in the past 10 days alone.

The Taliban view differs. “We still believe that the American side will come back to this position. Our fight for the past 18 years should have proven to the Americans that we will not be satisfied until we witness the complete end of the occupation,” the Taliban group has stated in a statement released on Twitter by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

The militants’ claim that the attacks strengthen their negotiating position is an absurd argument as the violence has primarily targeted innocent and helpless civilians. Heinous terrorist acts against civilians and their families will never be accepted by any society.

Until now, the Taliban have refused to talk to the Afghan administration of President Ashraf Ghani. It is impossible to comprehend complete peace without intra-Afghan talks taking place.

The talks between Khalilzad and Taliban leaders have been so closely guarded that last week Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was said to have been shown — not given —  the final draft.

Even as Khalilzad explained the deal to the Afghan people during a nationally televised interview, the Taliban detonated a car bomb targeting a foreign compound in Kabul. Ghani’s office then raised loud objections, agreeing with several former US ambassadors who warned that a hasty US withdrawal without Taliban guarantees on ending violence could lead to “total civil war.”

Though the United States and Taliban claim that both have left the door open to fresh talks, doubts persist.

Full cessation of violence and lasting peace are what Afghan people aspire for. How and whether that can be achieved swiftly remains a million-dollar question.