American and Afghani leaders are hopeful that peace talks will advance this month and potentially bring an end to the 18-year-long conflict in Afghanistan. Peace talks commenced in February of this year and included a promise of U.S withdrawal of troops and an end to Taliban terrorist acts in the Afghani region. Unfortunately, these promises were countermanded when the Taliban issued attacks on Afghan security forces, and the U.S. responded with an air raid. However, now that a ceasefire has been called between the Taliban and Afghani troops for the three-day Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, there is promise that a more formal and long-lasting peace treaty will be established soon.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has expressed hope for these upcoming peace talks. He explains, that “the ceasefire, prisoners release, and reduction in violence has created a momentum for the talks to begin soon and the government is fully ready.” The prisoner releases President Ghani refers to are those between Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the U.S. Embassy, the countries “took note of recent progress created by the Eid ceasefire and accelerated prisoner releases as well as reduced violence ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations.” Such positive coordination within the region could be a sign that an end to the war is approaching.
If the peace talks are to succeed, it could be revolutionary for Afghanistan and the United States. Afghanistan might be able to live peacefully after almost 30 years of conflict. However, it is arguable whether these peace talks will produce results. The Taliban already ignored the February peace agreement, and it is not the first time they’ve done so. In 2012 and 2019, peace talks were similarly abandoned when the Taliban refused to cease their attacks on the Afghani region. Moreover, Afghanistan will need more than just an end of the war to bring stability and peace back to its people. Part of the reason why the United States has been hesitant to retreat from Afghanistan in past years is because the war has caused breakdowns in public health programs, security, and infrastructure. A plan to rebuild these facilities is essential to assist Afghanistan become self-dependent and strong enough to withstand internal attacks from groups such as the Taliban.
Afghanistan has faced violence and political turmoil since the early 1970’s, even before the United States became involved in the war in 2001. The internal conflict surrounding the early Afghan War created space for the Taliban to rise to prominence. The Taliban later partnered with al-Qaeda, and together the two groups waged attacks on Afghanistan in the name of Islamist extremism. For the citizens of Afghanistan who have experienced these 30 years of violence firsthand, this war has been especially detrimental. These citizens are often caught in the crossfire between the Afghanistan military and the extremist groups. Even in areas where fighting has ceased, unexploded materials left behind by the United States continue to take lives. In addition, Afghani citizens have increasingly experienced lack of clean water, malnutrition, poor sanitation, and environmental degradation. According to the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, these issues have caused about two-thirds of Afghanis to suffer from mental health issues. An end to the war would help alleviate these issues and would allow the people of Afghanistan to enjoy a more peaceful existence.
The upcoming peace talks certainly create a sense of optimism about ending the war, but the Taliban will need to truly commit to a non-violence agreement for progress to be made. Only when the Taliban ceases its attacks on the Afghani region and when the Afghani state establishes strong infrastructure will the nation become more stable. Thirty years of conflict cannot be reversed overnight; Afghanistan will need many years of recovery to fully heal from the physical, financial, and mental damages of war. Hopefully, the United States and the Taliban will come to an agreement that honors and supports those Afghani people who have been living in a war-zone for so many years. If the upcoming peace agreement is honored, Afghanistan will experience its first step towards peace.