Zalmay Khalilzad, left, an American negotiator, with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy leader of the Taliban, during the signing ceremony of the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement on Saturday.Credit...EPA, via Shutterstock

Sometimes, foreign policy consists of trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

In the case of the recently signed U.S.-Taliban agreement on Afghanistan, President Trump provided the lemons, and the lead U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, and his team did the squeezing. Mr. Trump made clear that he intended to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan — with or without a “deal.” Then NATO partners pressured the United States not to reward the Taliban by conceding their long-held objective of forcing an American withdrawal for free. So, the president reportedly gave his negotiators a finite window to explore whether some deal was achievable.…  Seguir leyendo »

This week is a test for peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban have an historic opportunity to show that they have the will and the ability to reduce violence. This would pave the way for negotiations among Afghans for a comprehensive peace agreement.

NATO fully supports the efforts of the United States to find a peaceful solution. These efforts have brought us closer than ever before to an end to decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

Our engagement in Afghanistan is the direct consequence of 9/11, when we triggered our collective defense clause, Article 5, for the first time in history — in support of the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

A bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday wounded nine people, despite a truce in place.Credit...Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

Momentum is building toward peace in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, the United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement that will pave the way for talks between the Taliban and a team of negotiators led by the Afghan government in March. There is hope, at last, of respite from the long war.

The Afghan government deserves credit for planting the seeds of peace two years ago by offering unconditional talks to the Taliban and announcing a unilateral cease-fire that blossomed into a three-day pause in hostilities in June 2018.

Kabul continued to reach out to the Taliban and sent some officials in July to an informal peace dialogue in Doha that brought together the warring sides for the first time.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s midnight in Kabul as I write this. Afghans have gone to sleep, many of them in the hopes that a partial truce negotiated between the United States and Taliban will yield a reduction in violence. We — along with the rest of the world — learned of this development when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted about it on Friday evening.

But for millions of Afghans like me, a reduction in violence is not enough. According to President Ashraf Ghani, 20 terror groups are currently active in Afghanistan. If the Taliban come to control our country once more, it seems little will prevent any one of these groups from gaining strength and acting on their most evil impulses.…  Seguir leyendo »

Representatives led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (Front C) leave after a meeting chaired by Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, marking a century of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Russia on May 30, 2019 in Moscow, Russia on the th Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency

What just happened in talks between the U.S. and the Taliban?

A critical milestone in efforts to end the Afghan conflict was reached on 21 February, when Taliban and U.S. representatives issued statements confirming that they had reached an agreement providing for gradual U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, in exchange for Taliban promises to sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and to enter intra-Afghan negotiations to resolve the world’s deadliest conflict. The statements explained that the U.S. and Taliban would sign the agreement on 29 February in Doha, Qatar – where negotiations have been conducted for over a year – contingent on the successful completion of a seven-day period of “reduction in violence”, which is meant to begin on 22 February.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man waving an Afghan flag during an Independence Day celebration in Kabul in 2019.Credit...Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press

When our representatives started negotiating with the United States in 2018, our confidence that the talks would yield results was close to zero. We did not trust American intentions after 18 years of war and several previous attempts at negotiation that had proved futile.

Nevertheless, we decided to try once more. The long war has exacted a terrible cost from everyone. We thought it unwise to dismiss any potential opportunity for peace no matter how meager the prospects of its success. For more than four decades, precious Afghan lives have been lost every day. Everyone has lost somebody they loved. Everyone is tired of war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban militants laid down their arms in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, this month to join the peace process.Credit...Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA, via Shutterstock

The talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, which were abruptly canceled by President Trump in September, are back on track. After several months of diplomatic regrouping, American and Taliban negotiators are once again on the verge of sealing a deal.

The negotiators haven’t revised the basic transaction they set out last August — an American commitment to withdraw troops from Afghanistan for a Taliban promise not to allow the country to be used by transnational terrorists. Rather, they have added sweeteners to the bargain: As a Taliban concession, a seven-day “reduction in violence” before the United States will sign the deal, possibly followed by further steps to keep violence down, and the release of prisoners demanded by the insurgents.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghans during a protest to demand peace in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on Sunday. (Sayed Mustafa/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On Saturday, a holiday commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, people here awaited the announcement of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban on the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Skepticism here about what comes next pales in comparison with the certainty that continued war will fail.

This agreement can start a process that is the best chance to end Afghanistan’s 40-year war. It meets the core demands of the original antagonists of that war’s latest stage: the withdrawal of U.S. troops for the Taliban and guarantees against harboring terrorists for the United States. Next would come negotiations between the supporters of the Afghan Islamic republic and the Taliban on conditions to end their war, even as the battle against global terrorists continues.…  Seguir leyendo »

I took command of the United States Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. Not long after, the regiment deployed to Afghanistan as part of the American effort to destroy Al Qaeda and remove the Taliban from power.

In the 18 years since, soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment, a Special Operations light-infantry unit, have always been deployed to Afghanistan. And as others did, I returned many times thereafter. During his Thanksgiving visit to American troops in Afghanistan, President Trump declared that he had reopened peace talks with the Taliban. The president’s announcement is a rare chance to end our longest war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban collapsed in September, but there have been signs that they could soon resume, paving the way for crucial intra-Afghan talks. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 – Third Update for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage the resumption of these talks and to establish a regular channel to the Taliban.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2019 – Third Update.

The war in Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest in 2018, and it has stayed that way. Battle deaths thus far in 2019 nearly outnumber the combined toll in Syria and Yemen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Afghan police inspect the site of a suicide attack in northern Parwan province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 17 in which a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted presidential guards at a campaign rally. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Late last month, Afghan and U.S. forces targeted Asim Umar, chief of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), at a Taliban compound in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. While the fate of Umar is unknown, several militants were reportedly killed during the operation, including the Taliban’s local explosives expert and Umar’s courier, who transported messages to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

This development raises serious questions about the Taliban’s promises, made during the now-frozen U.S.-Taliban talks, to break ties with its longtime partner al-Qaeda. It suggests that the American hope of detaching the Taliban from its al-Qaeda allies, before making a deal with the Taliban, is nowhere near to being fulfilled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images An Afghan security officer on duty outside the Karte Sakhi mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 20, 2019

After forty years of war, it can be hard to remember who all your enemies were and why. Fawzia Koofi, a former deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament who has struggled through the tides of rising and falling regimes, recalled the day when her father’s body was brought back to her village. Her father, Abdul Rahman, had also been a member of parliament, and after Afghanistan’s first Communist coup in 1978, led a delegation from his village into the mountains to meet with leaders of the budding armed resistance, the Mujahideen.

Instead of opening a dialogue, Rahman was kidnapped and murdered by the rebels as an alleged agent of the new regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Children running in a graveyard in Logar, Afghanistan.CreditCreditJalil Jan Kochai

In Deh Naw — my parents’ home village in Logar Province of Afghanistan — makeshift graves and markers for the dead lay scattered amid orchards, in between fields, or atop hills, a testament to the decades of war. Sometimes, the graves are marked by small slabs of stone with a name or a prayer carved onto it, but just as often, the names of the dead went unrecorded, their lives only traded in whispers. Open secrets permeate these graveyards. Buried atrocities from the Soviet occupation, the Afghan civil wars, and the seemingly unending American occupation.

In the past nine months, Afghan and American-led international forces have killed more civilians than all antigovernment forces combined.…  Seguir leyendo »

A pesar de las negociaciones de paz en curso entre Estados Unidos y los talibanes, el sangriento conflicto en Afganistán sigue cobrándose muchísimas vidas entre la población del país. El reciente ataque suicida perpetrado por la rama Khorasan de Estado Islámico (IS-K) en una boda en Kabul, qua arrojó más de 60 muertos y cerca de 200 heridos, es un recordatorio claro de la mala situación de seguridad que rige en Afganistán. También muestra que los talibanes no son la única oposición armada que alimenta el conflicto. Por ende, es poco probable que un pacto de paz entre Estados Unidos y los talibanes traiga algún respiro.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women shopping at a market in Herat, Afghanistan. Photograph: Jalil Rezayee/EPA

My life story might be summed up like this: I’ve travelled from one of the worst countries in the world for women to one of the best countries. I am an Afghan refugee in Norway. Adaptation is a process, and comparing these two countries would be totally unfair but I would like to share my insights into what it feels like to be an independent woman in both countries.

As I write, I find myself on the shores of the Skagerrak strait in southern Norway. I’m on a typical cabin holiday, sitting by the water and feeling the fresh breeze playing with my curly, crazy hair at six in the morning.…  Seguir leyendo »

At the military headquarters here where commanders oversee America’s longest war, an official explains in one sentence the U.S.-led coalition’s bottom-line objective: “Peace is a situation where we can leave, and we don’t have to come back.”

But how will the United States move toward this endgame, as U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad nears conclusion of his secret peace negotiations with the Taliban jihadists that America has been fighting for 18 years? Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is said to have complained late last week that a draft of Khalilzad’s agreement contains “mere promises”from the Taliban and major concessions by the United States, according to a knowledgeable Afghan source who talked recently with Ghani.…  Seguir leyendo »

On July 7 — just hours after the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, declared an imminent peace settlement with the insurgent group that could be finalized as early as Sept. 1 — the Taliban launched an attack in Ghazni, Afghanistan, resulting in at least 12 deaths. The blast was yet another reminder of the gaps in the ongoing U.S.-driven peace process. The top-down political negotiations might be a relief for the United States, whose troops have languished there for nearly two decades. But to achieve a sustainable resolution for Afghans, the peace process will need to include a far more elusive negotiation — a social settlement that fosters reconciliation and trust between the population and the government.…  Seguir leyendo »

En la reciente Copa Mundial de críquet en Inglaterra, la animosa selección afgana (compuesta mayoritariamente por exrefugiados) sorprendió a todos con su excelente desempeño en los partidos, incluidos encuentros contra sus vecinos (la India y Pakistán). Por desgracia, no puede decirse lo mismo de otros dos conjuntos afganos (el de los talibanes y el del gobierno) que se reunieron este mes en Doha (Qatar) para acordar una “hoja de ruta para la paz”.

Los funcionarios del gobierno afgano que participaron en las conversaciones de Doha ni siquiera podían presentarse como tales, porque sus interlocutores (una banda de fanáticos asesinos) no reconocen al gobierno afgano.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban officials led by the movement's chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (C, front) attend peace talks between senior Afghan politicians and Taliban negotiators in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

What happened in Afghan peace talks in Doha?

Negotiations to end the Afghanistan war took a step forward on 7 and 8 July as more than 60 delegates, including Taliban and Afghan government officials as well as pro-government civil society representatives, gathered in the Qatari capital, Doha, for a peace dialogue. All participants joined the discussion in their personal capacities, which allowed the Taliban to continue refusing direct talks with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, as the Afghan government is formally known. The format also circumvented longstanding concerns in Kabul about giving recognition to the Taliban’s preferred name for themselves: the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Taliban meet Afghan politicians in Moscow for peace

Last year, when President Donald Trump gave the go-ahead for negotiations to start between the US and the Taliban, nobody expected his patience to last very long. He could sabotage the American negotiating team at any time, many observers feared, by ordering an arbitrary pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan government vulnerable to a Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Nor was there much hope that, having decimated the State Department, Trump would ever play by normal diplomatic rules and depend on institutions like the intelligence community that does the leg-work in such negotiations, rather than his own Fox News-driven instincts.…  Seguir leyendo »