Mike Pompeo has recently made headlines by expressing hope for an “important breakthrough” in the latest round of peace talks in Afghanistan. The Guardian reports that the talks may “usher in a more formal agreement by which the U.S. would reduce its 12,000-strong military presence in Afghanistan and the Taliban would agree to enter into comprehensive talks with Afghan officials on a political settlement”. There is real hope coming from these talks, in part due to the importance of this deal to Trump. He has publicly sworn to withdraw U.S. troops from overseas deployments. A peace deal here could be proof of him following through on his campaign promises ahead of re-election. This political aspect to the deal validates some cautious optimism.
The BBC hails the talks as ‘the prelude to an all-encompassing Afghan deal”. It also reports that leading up to the signing of the deal, a seven-day partial truce will be held between the U.S. and the Taliban. The talks appear to be the beginning not the end, its details still somewhat murky. U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said “a significant part of our operations” in Afghanistan would be suspended, but added that the “clock has not yet begun” and that further consultations were needed. The BBC stresses that the agreement is highly detailed, indicating that the foundation of the peace process will be expansive and robust.
The situation in Afghanistan is vastly complicated and any real solution will take many years to see success. Bringing the Taliban to the table and framing discussions in political terms legitimizes the Afghan government. It will need the legitimacy to control the nation and enforce peace once the U.S. withdraws. Trump’s support for the talks is reassuring. He has plenty of faults, but the efficacy of his campaign strategy is not one of them. In an election year, it is unlikely that he would publicly adopt a position that would be detrimental to re-election.
The details of the report are yet to be released, but what we know of its circumstances inspires hope. Many politicians have sought to reap the rewards of appearing to have authored peace treaties, but ultimately fail to stop conflict. Yet, there is reason to believe these talks will be different. The Taliban’s interest and the political expediency this affords Trump point to the relevant parties truly wanting a peace deal this time.