A United States official claims that the United States is open to hold direct talks with Taliban in order to encourage negotiations between the movement and the Afghan government, to hopefully end the 17-year long war. First reported on Sunday, July 15th by the New York Times, this marks a shift in tactics by the Trump Administrations, because previously the US would sit at negotiations only if they included the Afghan Government from the initiation.
The US official, quoted by The New Indian Express, who wishes to remain anonymous states that the objective of any talks is to open Afghan to Afghan negotiations for the establishment of peace.
The situation in Afghanistan currently shows no signs of improving, however that is not due to lack of willingness. The Taliban caused heavy damage to Afghan security forces on Thursday, July 12th, killing as many as 40 soldiers and wounding many, as reported by the New Indian Express. The attack happened in the Takhar area, and the governor’s spokesman Sunatullah Timor said that no reinforcements have yet come. The Taliban captured an army base and 11 posts, while the death toll reached 65. The lack of night-vision goggles and reinforcement is pointed as a reason, whereas the attack was performed by the elite Taliban Red Unit. They are heavily equipped due as a result of stealing equipment such as Humvees, weapons and night-vision goggles.
In a separate attack, Afghan forces launched an air strike on high-ranking Taliban members killing 24 and wounding 17, as stated by the Afghan Defense Ministry on July 12th.
The recent ceasefire during the Islamic holiday Eid raised hopes of peace and both sides expressed a deep fatigue with the war, with people even exchanging hugs and selfies in the streets.
During the three-day ceasefire Taliban movement members could communicate with Afghan security forces, offering a much needed and rare feeling of peace.
A Taliban official in Qatar told The Associated Press that no American official or mediator has been in contact with them to start talks. They have heard of the willingness from the media, however are waiting for the official notification from the US. The official also repeated the Taliban’s call of withdrawing of foreign troops from Afghan soil.
As reported by the New Indian Express, when asked if the US State Department was willing to hold talks with the Taliban the response was that the US is “is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government.” They also added that any negotiations about the future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban movement and the Afghanistan Government.
As of August of 2017, Trump launched an Afghanistan strategy aimed at boosting security forces and aiming to compel the Taliban to negotiate with help from Pakistan among other interested nations.
After the meeting with Ghani on July 9th US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was hopeful and said “The United States will support, facilitate, and participate in these peace discussions, but peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them. We expect that these peace talks will include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces.”
As of July 16th, all of Ghani’s invitations to negotiations have been ignored or refused by the Taliban, instead demanding to sit with the US and rejecting any other option.
The conflict is at an apparent stalemate, with about 40% of the country being under Taliban control. Taliban have not changed their position of demanding withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil and refusing talks with any side other than the US, the reason for that being that the Taliban movement has clearly shown that they view the Afghan government as a puppet of the US.