In Doha, Qatar, a summit scheduled for the 7th and 8th of July may help place Afghanistan on the path to peace. This ‘intra-Afghan’ summit aims to bring representatives from the Afghani government and the Taliban together in order to negotiate an end to the eighteen-year long war which has plagued the nation. Sponsored by both the German and Qatari governments, this summit has been seen as important enough for the United States to briefly suspend its own talks with the Taliban in order to allow this summit to proceed unhindered.
The most important objective of this summit is negotiating a path forward in order to achieve peace. Markus Potzel, Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in a statement, “Afghanistan stands at a critical moment of opportunity for progress towards peace.” He later said, “An essential component of any process leading to this objective will be a direct engagement between the Afghans.” As part of this, it is necessary to treat the Taliban as a legitimate political force in the region. Indeed, they could be considered one. Al Jazeera reports that the Taliban is today more powerful than it has been since it was overthrown by the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, to the point where it can effectively exert control over half of the nation.
Afghanistan has long been referred to as the “graveyard of empires;” a phrase which represents the difficulty of establishing any sort of foreign control over the disparate peoples and challenging geography of the central Asian country. In the closing years of the Cold War, Afghanistan became the centre of a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The U.S.S.R., seeking to prop up a failing Communist government, invaded Afghanistan late in 1979. The United States (and others) provided arms, training, and funding to the Afghani freedom fighters, who referred to themselves as the Mujahideen. While the Soviet Union withdrew in 1989, Afghanistan did not find itself freed from conflict. From 1989 to 2001, the nation suffered from three separate civil wars, followed by a foreign invasion led by the United States in 2001. All tallied up, Afghanistan has been stuck in some form of conflict for approximately 40 years; the Taliban has been involved in some way for most of this time.
The current talks are not the first to be held between the Taliban and the legitimate Afghani government. Previous talks have often stalled, but political analysts are not too worried. Hashim Wahdatyar, a director at the Institute of Current World Affairs in Washington, told Al Jazeera, “Remember, it is not a project that produces results in a specific timeframe. It is a process and it will take time and efforts to find a solution to the war in Afghanistan.” This is a particularly salient point. These decades of conflict have influenced the lives of thousands. The greatest tragedy of the Afghani conflict is perhaps that it has produced multiple generations of children who have known nothing but war. Even during diplomatic talks, peace does not find a place because attacks from the Taliban are ongoing. Al Jazeera reports that just last week, the Taliban were responsible for a car bomb attack in Kabul which killed 16 people and wounded 105 more.
Success in these latest talks would be a welcome development. If the Taliban could be convinced to cease their attacks, the path would be opened for a longer, and more comprehensive, peace summit. Recovery is key to Afghanistan’s success as a nation, and it has been a long time coming. While it could take many years of discussion to reach any preliminary agreement, any positive progress from this latest summit would help to provide a foundation. Peace is possible.
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