By: Lailuma Noori
KABUL: The growing incidents of terrorism in Afghanistan, all attributed to the Taliban, point to hopelessness in the ongoing talks between the Taliban and the US government for a political settlement in the war-torn country.
The second round of the talks, which started in December, after the first round was abruptly called off by US President Donald Trump in September, has been stalled in the wake of an attack on Bagram airbase. The pause in negotiations will provide both sides time for reflection over the ‘progress’ so far achieved. Neither side has announced when they will return to talks, but Pakistan hopes that the latest ‘pause’ will end soon. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad have discussed different ways to address the bumps slowing the peace talks being held in Doha. The Bagram airbase is the US military base. Khalilzad expressed his ire through a tweet: “When I met the Talibs today, I expressed outrage about yesterday’s attack on Bagram, which recklessly killed two and wounded dozens of civilians. Taliban must show they are willing and able to respond to Afghan desire for peace. We’re taking a brief pause for them to consult their leadership on this essential topic.” In November, when President Trump announced opening talks with the Taliban during a Thanksgiving trip to US troops in Afghanistan, he had hoped that the Taliban would follow with a ceasefire. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, however, had appealed to the US to ensure the ceasefire before reinitiating talks. Taliban, though, never promised any such step. The world is hoping against hope to broker a peace deal with the militants, whose only skill is fighting an endless war. Pakistan is backing the process despite having its own futile exercise of trying to reach a political settlement with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan in 2014. During those talks, the government demanded a ceasefire again and again but the TTP continued killing people only to raise the stakes. The flawed process has one main party – the Afghan government – excluded on the request of the Taliban and this clouds the process. Kabul sees Pakistan’s hand behind their exclusion. Foreign Minister Qureshi says if the US-Taliban negotiations are successful there will be a need for intra-Afghan dialogue for which Pakistan is providing support as well.