The U.S. war in Afghanistan has been a nearly 18-year conflict, beginning in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.
But now it seems like there might be some hope for peace after all.
Over the last few months, the U.S. and the Taliban have been trying to negotiate terms.
“The talks between the United States and the Taliban are going to pave the way for talks between Afghans, all the major Afghan factions, including the Taliban, including the Afghan government, about how to finally end the war,” Graeme Smith, a consultant with the International Crisis Group, told Global News.
U.S. President Donald Trump says they are getting close to reaching an agreement under which the U.S. and other foreign forces would pull out their troops from Afghanistan. In exchange, the U.S. wants the Taliban to pledge that Afghanistan will not allow its grounds to be used for international attacks.
“It’s very, very likely at this point that there will be a deal between the Americans and the Taliban,” Smith says.
Once an agreement is reached, the next step would be for the Taliban to sit down with the Afghan government and talk about a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing agreement.
“That is something the Taliban swore they would never do,” says Smith. “So the idea of negotiating while there are still foreign soldiers’ boots on their soil, that’s a big concession, and it’s a major step forward for diplomacy.”
So what’s finally bringing all this change after 18 years of war?
“The main thing that has changed is the American willingness to withdraw all of its troops,” Smith adds. “That’s a game-changer. And it’s also something that the region wants… Americans have understood that maybe they don’t need to maintain this vast archipelago of military bases in every single corner of the world in order to combat terrorism….Maybe there will be a way of making sure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for international terrorists, by working with local factions that are there like the Taliban.”
This is all happening at a time when elections in Afghanistan are just around the corner, on September 28.
“What do you do when you have a peace process that will probably result in some kind of a new political dispensation in the country and at the same time elections which are also in their own way supposed to produce a new political dispensation…there’s a high likelihood that President Ghani would get re-elected partly because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest from his challengers in this electoral process.”
While a potential peace deal looms between the U.S. and Taliban, Smith says the hope is that there will be as much investment made into making peace as there has been in the past for war.