The recent peace talks with the Taliban have brought a lot of hopes, concerns, fears and memories among Afghans. They can’t help but wonder what the cost of these negotiations and an unknown peace agreement, will be. They wonder what it means for them when Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, and the Taliban negotiators say they have “in principle agreed to a framework for a peace deal”. They question why the government that they have elected at the expense of their lives is being sidelined. Is this the end of the young democracy in the country? This article will look into the common fears and hopes of Afghans and especially Afghan women.
Responsible Withdrawal of Troops
While President Trump’s announcement of the withdrawal of US force from Afghanistan was widely celebrated as victory of the insurgency among the Taliban, it has also created worry among the majority of Afghans. The reduction of troops has been previously discussed and implemented. However, what makes the talks about this withdrawal different are a) the timeframe assigned to it; b) the lack of involvement of the government in the process; and c) a general sense that the interests of the Afghan population are not on the agenda, as the withdrawal is only based on the sole condition of ensuring that Afghan soil will not be used for terrorist activities.
According to Mariam Safi, Director of the Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies, The Afghan war has been the longest in US history, the longest mission in NATO history and the longest peace-building mission in UN history and these missions will, as has been the case in other contexts, have to come to end. But, the recent hasty US-Taliban talks and signals from Washington of an impending withdrawal puts the hard-won gains of democracy in Afghanistan at risk. The general sentiment among Afghans is that withdrawal is inevitable, but they hope for it to be phased, reflecting realities on the ground, and one that leaves behind a sustainable environment where peace can flourish. The fear is that a hasty withdrawal and one that does not take into account the realities on the ground will result in loss of every value and achievement that Afghans, especially Afghan women and youth, have been enjoying in the last seventeen years. While Ambassador Khalilzad rejects any agreement on a timeline for the withdrawal, he emphasizes that reaching a peace agreement before the 2019 presidential election will be ideal. Since the elections are set for mid-2019, this means that there is an indirectly set timeline for the withdrawal of troops as it is a precondition for peace talks.