- Hopefully yes
A ‘partial truce’ has been reached between US forces and the Afghan Taliban for a week long “reduction in violence” guaranteeing that there will be no ‘major offensive operations’ from either side. If successfully executed, a peace deal will be signed, paving the way for an eventual end to an almost two-decade long brutal conflict. Getting to this point has not been easy; over 18 months of bilateral and multilateral negotiations between major stakeholders have taken place starting from the dialogues in Qatar. Experts are understandably skeptical as many ceasefire agreements have been violated by the Afghan Taliban side during the course of the talks resulting in increased violence. US President Donald Trump had at one point last year completely abandoned the peace process when a US soldier was killed by the Taliban. But that was then, at the moment he is running for reelection and one of the key deliverables that he is banking on is a comfortable US exit from Afghanistan. Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy leader of the Taliban, in an uncharacteristically, optimistically positive op-ed with his byline no less, published in The New York Times three days ago, wrote that the Taliban are “committed to working with other parties in a consultative manner of genuine respect to agree on a new, inclusive political system in which the voice of every Afghan is reflected and where no Afghan feels excluded.” It goes on to say that these equal rights will extend to women in terms of education and the right to work as well. One thing seems to be clear in all of this: both sides have left something on the table to reach a consensus that is workable.
This is however just a first step with some immediate challenges that may threaten progress, the contested Afghanistan presidential election result being one of them. Although Ashraf Ghani has been declared a winner with 50 percent of the vote, his rival who came in second with 39 percent of the vote, Abdullah Abdullah, has rejected the result, vowing to form his own parallel government. Going forward, President Ghani will have to address this political uncertainty to make sure the peace deal is not compromised. It is hoped that all sides make good on the terms agreed in the deal to finally bring long lasting peace to Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.