United States and Taliban End Peace Talks With Significant Progress Achieved
The United States and the Taliban have concluded more than two weeks of talks without deciding upon a formal peace deal. Despite no concrete agreement, representatives of both parties assure that the talks made significant progress in the issue of curbing violence within Afghanistan.
The talks were held in Doha, the capital of Qatar and the location of the Taliban’s first official overseas headquarters. Led by the United States’ special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, the talks represent the longest negotiations conducted between the United States and a militant group in Afghanistan since 2001.
“The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad stated in a tweet published on March 12. Khalilzad also mentioned that the United States and the Taliban may meet again in the near future to establish a finalized deal.
The talks, which first began in January, dealt primarily with four issues, as stated by Khalilzad in a tweet: “counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire.” According to Khalilzad, the United States and the Taliban are “agreed in draft” on the first two issues: counter-terrorism assurances and troop withdrawal.
Initially, on the issue of troop withdrawal, the United States warned the Taliban full withdrawal of its troops would not be completed for another three years, while the Taliban requested that the troops exit within as little as six months.
However, after the talks ended, the Taliban released a statement declaring an achievement of “progress” on both counter-terrorism measures and the issue of troop withdrawal. For now, both sides will “deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiation teams,” the Taliban’s statement read.
However, despite assurances from both sides that peace is near and achievable in the Afghanistan conflict, fighting has historically intensified in the spring. Without a formal agreement between the Taliban and the United States, many worry that the air of mistrust that characterized the talks between the United States and the Taliban will proliferate and impact how ground forces interact with one another.
Furthermore, the Afghan government has been shut out of the negotiation process by the Taliban, who have repeatedly termed the institution a “puppet of Washington.” Until Tuesday, the government had been suspicious of the talks.
However, after their termination, Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, stated: “We welcome U.S. efforts in the Afghan peace process. We hope to witness a long-term comprehensive cease-fire with the Taliban, and hope that direct negotiations of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban will begin soon.”
Despite the evident progress, details of a potential first formal peace deal between the United States and the Taliban have yet to be fully settled upon.