US-Taliban peace talks seek to build on preliminary January agreement

US-Taliban peace talks seek to build on preliminary January agreement

Following a two-day break, US and Taliban officials will reconvene for peace talks in Qatar today. After a preliminary discussion

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Photo: Reuters

Following a two-day break, US and Taliban officials will reconvene for peace talks in Qatar today.

After a preliminary discussion in January, talks have ramped up this week. Notably, Taliban co-founder and Commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar joined the negotiations, marking the highest-level engagement between the two sides since fighting began almost 18 years ago.

It is likely that the talks this week built on January’s preliminary agreement, with Washington outlining how it would withdraw its 14,000 troops, and the Taliban providing a plan to guarantee that Afghanistan’s territory will not harbour terrorists.

Those two issues are relatively simple hurdles to clear in this process—President Donald Trump has made his distaste for US military involvement in Afghanistan clear, while the Taliban’s harbouring of al-Qaeda terrorists was largely responsible for the US invasion that brought its downfall in 2001.

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will now likely focus on getting the Taliban to engage with the Afghan government, something it has steadfastly refused. Still, intra-Afghan dialogue will be necessary for talks to proceed, and the involvement of Mr Baradar indicates that the Taliban is serious about these discussions. As such, there is reason to be optimistic that talks will progress, although a lasting agreement remains a long way off.

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