Wars are costly but ending wars sometimes requires a gambling instinct. The US and the Taliban have kicked off the seventh round of peace talks in Doha. The talks primarily aim at achieving a provisional schedule for the American troop withdrawal. Lately, somehow achieving peace had replaced troop withdrawal from the talking points of Zalmay Khalilzad. The Taliban have been demanding of the US to leave Afghanistan now. The United States is pushing for a gradual withdrawal over a period of three years or more. But we will see what this round of talks would yield. Indian lobbyists in Washington, Indian officials in New Delhi, and Indian spies in Doha would all be extremely busy in their coordinated effort at achieving one thing: delaying the American withdrawal from Afghanistan because it serves to keep their presence and anti-Pakistan activities alive in Afghanistan.
Apart from the nitty-gritty of the peace talks and a potential agreement that could be achieved between the Taliban and the United States, two demands remain the key points of these peace talks: for the American troops to withdraw from Afghanistan and for the Taliban to prevent their soil from being used by international terrorist groups to target the United States and its allies. The important nuance to understand about these two demands is that the Americans would have to trust the word of the Taliban. There is only one way to find out if the Taliban would prevent the Afghan soil from being used against America; it will happen with the American withdrawal not before. So, it is a gamble Washington would have to take.
The nature of these demands requires for Washington to take the first step. The reverse isn’t possible. The Taliban cannot and would not guarantee that their land would become terrorist-free while the occupation forces are in town. In fact, the Taliban have stepped up the attacks just to show their muscle and keep negotiating from a stronger position. There is one encouraging indication for the Americans to pay attention to; the fact that the Taliban are continuously refusing to talk to the Kabul regime, which they call the “puppet” regime. Had the Taliban been bluffing about their guarantee of not letting Afghanistan be used for terrorist attacks against America, they would have just agreed to talk to the Kabul regime and agreed to any demands so as to ensure an American withdrawal and later on backed off from any promises made. The Taliban are not saying whatever it takes to get the Americans out.
Therefore, the Americans should gamble on it and agree to leave quickly rather than in a phased manner that would take years. The Taliban have not shown any appetite for war provided their land ceases to be occupied by a foreign military. They do not have any international designs of waging wars or attacking the Western society. That is what Al Qaeda and IS believe in. Furthermore, the Taliban are also gambling on the American word. While Washington taking care of its end of the bargain (withdrawal) comes before the Taliban keeping their word, there is no formal guarantee in the peace talks that America wouldn’t come invading again even after the Taliban have taken care of its end of the bargain.
We have seen that president Obama along with European nations made the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) but it has been ripped apart by President Trump. So, another president in future might just decide based on any false or fabricated intelligence backed up by lowly journalistic work that Afghanistan must be attacked again. President Trump has a loud mouth or rather a loud Twitter but doesn’t seem to have an appetite for foreign wars. But what guarantees do the Taliban have that another Yale or Harvard graduate president with a smiling face wouldn’t have a quiet Twitter but loud war machinery?
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2019.
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