The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for more than two decades now—men who had been stationed in Afghanistan in their youth are now sending their sons off to the same war. It has been termed the “forever war”, a conflict that seems to have no end, despite US Presidents being elected on the promise that they will pull out troops.
The war that doesn’t appear to have an end might just be seeing its conclusion in 2021, however, if all countries play their cards right, and the gradual approach to the finish line was initiated yesterday. After taking three months to thrash out an agreement on procedural issues for the negotiations, representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban will meet in the Gulf state’s capital, Doha, for the first time in three weeks for peace talks aimed at brokering an end to the war.
This is a crucial moment and matters must be handled delicately—the US recognises the need to pull out troops from Afghanistan but it is still undecided over how to leave. Pakistan can play a key role in this process, and that is evidenced by the fact that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa one day before the talks to discuss regional security with reference to the reconciliation process. The talks are already starting on a bit of a shaky footing—Washington has blamed the Taliban for attacks in Kabul, while the Taliban have accused US forces of violating the 2020 bilateral agreement.
Due to Afghanistan and Pakistan’s regional and cultural similarities, our government has influence—it must play its part to ensure the US leaves Afghanistan with participation and interests of the Afghan people. Consultations through back channels between members of the Afghan youth and citizen exchanges is something the government can encourage from our side, to allow for the Afghan people to verbalise their vision of a peaceful Afghanistan.