Saturday, June 19, 2021

US Seeks Peace Test From Taliban

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The Afghan peace process has reached its most critical phase with both the US and the Taliban putting different timelines for a temporary ceasefire before sealing a peace agreement. The ceasefire will test the level of trust between the two sides who have been through many ups and downs together since President Donald Trump appointed Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad for the delicate job of engaging the Taliban. However, both sides remained caught in combat on the ground in Afghanistan.

The United States has been maintaining there should be a ten day period for ceasefire which has been contradicted by the Taliban which asked for seven days. Such bargaining has been a part of the difficult process of engagement.

The peace talks had progressed to a dramatic turn when in September 2019, President Trump agreed to host both the Taliban political negotiating team as well as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the United States. However, the initiative failed as an attack from the Taliban on a military base near Kabul went ahead without any regard for the status of the peace talks.

It took several months and international efforts by China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia to restart the talks which has once again reached a critical juncture. Taliban sources say that they have the draft agreement ready as it was prepared in September and that there are no changes necessary in the text as the assurances were given by both sides. However, there is a need to build the atmospherics before the final sealing could take place.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had stated that the US now expects to demonstrable evidence that the Taliban can actually stop fighting after entering into the peace agreement. “We got close once before to having an agreement: a piece of paper that we mutually executed and the Taliban were unable to demonstrate either their will or capacity or both to deliver on a reduction in violence,” Mr. Pompeo had said.

This demonstration will also indicate the political