On again, off again: Erratic history of talks with the Taliban – World

A secret US summit with the Taliban and the leader of Afghanistan, abruptly canceled by President Donald Trump on Saturday, was not the first time that Washington has sought an agreement with them.

Since long before the US invasion, Washington has tried to obtain promises from the Taliban, which has resulted in a tragic series of missed opportunities and almost guarantees suspicions about any new agreement.

Before September 11: empty promises

According to declassified documents, the Clinton administration secretly contacted the Taliban many times in the years leading up to the attacks of September 11, 2001 by al Qaeda.

Washington feared that the Taliban would allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for militants, particularly al Qaeda's supreme, Osama bin Laden.

They got nothing but empty promises from Al Qaeda until September 11.

After September 11: missed opportunities

After the US invasion, the Taliban agreed to leave their weapons in exchange for an amnesty. The United States rejected the offer and promised to destroy the regime.

They launched a bloody insurgency, inflicting colossal losses on Afghan security forces and bogging down the United States in a hard fight.

New attempts at dialogue were made in 2004 and again in 2011, but it was in vain.

In 2013, the Taliban opened an office in Qatar. But an attempt to dialogue with the United States from Doha vanished when he was declared an unofficial embassy for a waiting government, an unacceptable position for the US-backed government in Kabul.

Perhaps the best opportunity came when the Afghan government held its first face-to-face talks with the Taliban in 2015 in Pakistan.

It collapsed after the news that Taliban founder Mullah Omar had died two years earlier, a fact that the insurgents had kept secret.

Stop the elusive fire

In 2015, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered to recognize the Taliban as a political party in an attempt to boost peace talks. They ignored him.

In 2018, he renewed his offer and proposed a ceasefire that marks Eidul Fitr, the festival that celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramazan.

The Taliban did not respond, but announced their own unilateral ceasefire during the first three days of Eid.

They were the first three days of peace since 2001, and invoked touching scenes, such as Afghans sharing ice cream with Taliban fighters. But later, the violence resumed.

In May 2019, a Loya Jirga, a large assembly of Afghan high dignitaries, called for an "immediate and permanent" ceasefire that the Taliban implicitly rejected.

Way to a deal

In September 2018, the United States appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as a special peace envoy, launching a new impulse to speak with the Taliban when President Donald Trump was seeking an exit from Afghanistan.

During several rounds of talks in Doha, expectations increased.

The talks focused on a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for promises to fight terrorism, a ceasefire and the opening of negotiations with the Kabul government.

The Taliban have insisted that the withdrawal of foreign forces is a precondition.

But Washington is looking for a "comprehensive peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement," said Khalilzad, eager to reach an agreement early in the period before the 2020 campaign for the White House.

On / Off Hope

The Taliban have long refused to negotiate with the Ghani government, calling Kabul a "puppet" in Washington.

However, as the talks in Doha progressed over the past year, they met with members of the Afghan opposition twice in Moscow.

Read: Kabul sees Taliban-Afghan opposition talks in Moscow as a betrayal

Last July, Taliban fighters met in Doha with members of the Afghan government who had come "in a personal capacity."

Kabul has expressed anger at being left out of the talks in Doha, but the agreement between the United States and the Taliban preaches an intra-Afghan dialogue to move forward.

In July, Ghani formed a team of negotiators to hold talks with the Taliban.

On September 7, Trump announced that he had convened a secret summit with the Taliban and the leader of Afghanistan, abruptly opening the door to a year of diplomacy.

The president of the United States accused the Taliban of using an attack in Kabul, which he said killed an American soldier and 11 other people, to "build a false influence."

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1504208/on-again-off-again-erratic-history-of-talks-with-the-taliban


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