The United States has stepped up efforts to find a political settlement for the Afghan war, one of the longest wars in its history. As part of the fresh push, the US Department of State has, for the first time, appointed a special envoy for Afghan peace negotiations. Although there had been attempts to bring the Taliban considered as the main insurgent group fighting Afghan government to the negotiating table, they were of limited scope. The renewed efforts are promising, but sidelining Afghan government as a key side in the conflict can push them to failure, as happened in the past. There is no doubt the Afghan government has failed to protect the lives and properties of the citizens, but its complete ignorance is on no account acceptable because despite all the shortcomings it has, it is the only side that has been elected by people and is therefore accountable to the people. The two other parties to the war, the Taliban and United States, are not willing and ready to account to afghan people for their actions.
Recently, some reports surfaced that Afghan government is not involved in the new peace efforts as much as necessary, or that there are some disagreements between Kabul and Washington. Even though Afghan government rejected the reports as baseless, the mere rejection cannot assuage these concerns looking at the experience of previous peace talks. The more the Afghan government is sidelined from the reconciliation talks, the slimmer the opportunity to accept the result of any potential peace talks.
Americans should realize the issue, and spare no effort to convince the Taliban as soon as possible to agree to the inclusion of Afghan government’s representatives in the peace talks. In addition to Washington, Kabul also should not sit on its hands. It must not relinquish the fate of peace process to Washington and Islamabad. It is for sure that any peace talks without US and Pakistan will finish nowhere, but it does not necessarily mean that they should decide the fate of Afghans. Any efforts made for peace by any foreign side, including US and Pakistan, should support and complement intra-Afghan dialogue than replace it. The peace talks are aimed at restoring peace in Afghanistan so they will lose the essence if Afghan government is excluded from the process. The direct US-Taliban talks should soon clear the path for direct Taliban-Afghan government talks and discussions about the major issues. Otherwise, even the current efforts cannot put an end to the virtually two-decade long war.
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