Every bit of good news that comes from Afghanistan is quickly followed by more tragedy. Just days after the US announced that it would be withdrawing up to half of its troops from Afghanistan and with talks between the US and the Taliban now under way, more than 40 people were killed by a suicide bomber and gunmen in an attack on a government compound in Kabul on Monday. This was the second deadliest attack in the capital city this year after last month’s suicide bombing targeting religious scholars at a wedding hall. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but both the Taliban and the Islamic State have gone after government targets in the past. It now remains to be seen what impact this attack will have on a peace process that has been gathering steam in recent weeks. The Afghan government has understandably been the most wary of all the parties involved in the peace talks since it bears the brunt of the Taliban attacks. But the US seems to be all-in on talks, especially after President Donald Trump announced that he would withdraw up to half of all Americans troops from the country. The US has now gone even further with the Pentagon releasing a plan that would offer Taliban fighters safety and even job guarantees should they lay down their arms.
Afghanistan’s neighbours are equally committed to a political solution to the war. This week the chairperson of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council visited Afghanistan where he met with representatives of the Taliban. Since the conditions of post-war Afghanistan will affect every country in the region, it is heartening that the negotiations have the participation of all stakeholders. But there is always the possibility of President Ashraf Ghani throwing a spanner in the works. He has tended to blame Pakistan whenever there is a large attack in his country and should he do so once again after this Kabul attack it could harm the peace process. Ghani will also have the upcoming presidential elections in mind. Scheduled for April, there is a chance they may be delayed after allegations of widespread rigging in and fraud in this month’s parliamentary elections. Should Ghani become a lame-duck president, the Taliban may be less inclined to reach a compromise with him. An increase in violence could also make it harder to build a sustainable peace. Progress has been made in bringing all sides to the negotiating table but the hard work is still to be done.