A US military plane crashed in the Taliban controlled area in Afghanistan killing two US troops followed by the killing of two US service members in a road side explosion of which the Taliban claimed responsibility. These events happened shortly after the Chief spokesperson of the Taliban, Suhail Shaheen gave the following statement “We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States.” This announcement of an apparent ceasefire could be seen as the most significant development in the Taliban-US peace talks which have been going on for about 18 months.
This ceasefire was to help the process of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. This ceasefire, however, can also be seen as an indication that a solution might be brewing for the long 18-year conflict between the United States and the Afghan Taliban. A more resolute solution for the de-escalation of the Afghan conflict is yet to come.
The attacks by the militia have toned down to some extent in the cities but more rural areas are still suffering from a number of Taliban attacks. Taliban had made it clear that the “scaling down” in no way meant a complete ceasefire but they would only level down attacks on highways and major cities. The attacks can very well be directly linked to what is being achieved at the Doha peace talks. The attacks could indicate a growing mistrust in the Taliban towards the US. As no action has been taken on the announcement made by President Donald Trump regarding the withdrawal of several thousand US troops from the Middle East. On the contrary, an additional three thousand troops were deployed amid the US-Iran tensions.
The United States has also shown a notable amount of hostility in the region by dropping a record number of 7,423 bombs on targets in Afghanistan, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a report released on 27th January 2020. The airstrikes have resulted in a number of civilian casualties. Earlier this month about 60 civilians were killed or wounded in a US drone strike which targeted a Taliban splinter-group commander in the western Afghanistan province of Herat.
The solution of the US-Taliban conflict will somewhat stabilize the situation in Afghanistan but the issue can’t be solved unless the third stakeholder joins the table, the Afghan Government. After months of controversy, the results of the presidential election have announced President Ashraf Ghani the winner. These results were outright rejected by the second candidate Abdullah Abdullah who claims the result to be a fraud. Several other parties have also voiced their concerns over the election result being rigged. No chance of a cross-party government of national unity can be seen at the moment. As both parties have already experienced one term of a “unity government,” where one party rules and makes decisions regarding all the political affairs while the other party governs on the backstage.
This situation causes a major setback in the process of achieving the Peaceful Afghanistan dream. Even if the US and Taliban come to an understanding, would the removal of foreign troops be favorable for the country? If yes then who will moderate the talks between the Taliban and the government and which party or parties will represent the government. That too will only be possible if the Taliban even agree to sit with the government as they have repelled the government in the past claiming that it is a puppet of the United States.
The recent escalation has been seen when the Taliban and United states are finally reaching a point of completion of the long-held peace talks. The Trump administration has made it clear that they are of the view that it’s time to hand over Afghanistan to its people and have declared withdrawal. This step can prove very beneficial as one of the most basic demands of the Taliban was the removal of international intervention in the country. Taliban are also moving towards a peaceful solution due to the recent advancements in the peace talks. However, what will the demands be of the Taliban regarding governing the country, if the process reaches to that stage, are still to be known. That being settled the problem of the dispute among government still lingers over a peaceful Afghanistan and this issue needs solving so the stance of the government is also in view and the peace process can gain pace.