The Taliban and Peace in Afghanistan: Why Negotiation is Now Critical

Published May 14th, 2020 - 08:06 GMT
Taliban gathering in Laghman province of Afghanistan, March 2, 2020 /AFP
Taliban gathering in Laghman province of Afghanistan, March 2, 2020 /AFP

After signing an “agreement for bringing peace” with the Taliban in February, Donald Trump said that the US had been killing people “by the thousands” and now is the “time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban and it could be surrounding countries". The appearance of the novel coronavirus in the country makes peace more urgent than ever.

 

But in recent weeks violence has increased. Hours after the deal was announced the US conducted airstrikes on the Taliban which, it said, were in response to Taliban attacks on Afghan government forces.

A recent Twitter spat between Col Sonny Leggett, US military spokesperson, and Zabihullah Mujahid, his Taliban counterpart, revealed that there was an unofficial agreement that violence was to be reduced by 80% if the peace-plan was to go ahead.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban, said in an open letter published earlier this year that when their “representatives started negotiating with the United States in 2018, our confidence that the talks would yield results were close to zero.”

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban, said in an open letter published earlier this year that when their “representatives started negotiating with the United States in 2018, our confidence that the talks would yield results were close to zero.”

COVID-10 means that the two parties cannot afford to delay talks and escalate violence any further. The US has announced it will be cutting $1bn in aid to the country. This news comes as Afghanistan is seeing over 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and, at least, 104 deaths.

Karl Blanchet, Professor in Humanitarian Health at the University of Geneva, told Al Bawaba that the Afghan government has “developed, this year, the Integrated Package of Essential Health Services, a set of priority health interventions for every health faciltity in the country.”

“Support from international health donors, including the USA, is crucial to support better health and better peace,” Blanchet says.

The US State Department has said that “at each stop, [we] will urge support for an immediate reduction in violence, accelerated timeline for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, and cooperation among all sides in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan,”

Karl Blanchet told Al Bawaba that “the government of Afghanistan needs international collaboration to help them deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

But things are in a bad state. Medical workers in the city of Zabul, in southern Afghanistan, are being forced to treat patients in a bombed-out hospital. ““After the Taliban destroyed our main hospital, something remained and we made a two-storey building from that to hospitalise Covid patients,” Dr Lal Mohammad Tokhi, head of the public health directorate in Zabul, told The Guardian.

An international collaboration, as well as dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban is essential. Karl Blanchet told Al Bawaba that “the government of Afghanistan needs international collaboration to help them deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This includes making sure that the Taliban will implement prevention measures in the areas they control. To achieve proper coverage of the COVID response, dialogue between both parties and peace talks need to take place. This is essential.”


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