Peace for Afghanistan? Peace Talks Held Between Afghan Government and Taliban

On July 7, Pakistan welcomed delegates from the Afghan government and members of the Taliban to sit down together for the first ever peace talks. Members from other nations including the United States and China were also present for the talks. This is an incredible and unexpected step toward building peace within war torn Afghanistan. In addition, these peace talks have begun during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Many, especially United Nations secretary-general for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, support the talks. Haysom believes that the only way to produce progress and peace is through face-to-face negotiations. However, it is important to note that these talks are the beginning of a long and complex process. The agreement of both parties to talk shows the high level of commitment to rebuild Afghanistan. Further, both sides have expressed their willingness to cooperate – trust must be built between all members.

Since the peace talks began, the question has arisen whether the Taliban is actually capable of achieving and maintaining peace. For more than thirteen years, the Taliban has been fighting the Afghani government and ultimately destroying the country. There is no doubt that the Taliban have carried out the numerous attacks against Afghani security forces, as well as civilians who support the Afghani government.

The Islamic fundamentalist group formed in the early 1990s to resist Soviet occupation and invasion. The Taliban was seen as a group that would bring stability and order to Afghanistan. The Taliban imposed Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law throughout the territory it directly controlled. By 2001, the Taliban controlled a little over 90 percent of Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul. Although the United States’ invasion later dismantled the group, elsewhere the Taliban were able to regroup and train new members.

A video published by Al Jazeera highlights the control that the Taliban’s presence has in the district of Charkh, outside of Kabul. The report interviews civilians in the area as victims of bombings and attacks by the Afghan government and national army. Watching the video almost gives one a sense of pity for the Taliban members – who are fighting the government to simply protect the people of their country. One also gets the sense that the Taliban has lowered its hard stance on Islamic fundamentalism by allowing girls to attend schools. Perhaps the Taliban is prepared to turn over a new leaf for the goal of peace. However, the Taliban has not wavered in the quantity or severity of its attacks. Just this Tuesday, a suicide bomber drove into another vehicle, injuring two. Although the Taliban does not have the technology and weapons that the Afghan army possesses, it has the capability to spread fear. It can be argued that fear is far more threatening than any weapon.

Pakistan, the country hosting the peace talks, has long been accused of funding and providing sanctuary for Taliban leaders. By encouraging the peace talks, Pakistan has demonstrated that it is also ready for peace. The Taliban in Pakistan has been a deadly fighting force. It is also speculated that Taliban fighters from Afghanistan were trained in Pakistani Islamic schools. It is the hope that these peace talks will lead to concrete results of progress and improvement in both countries. The only way to achieve peace is for both parties to build trust and cooperate together to benefit the entire nation.