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Afghan Army Chief of Staff General Sharif Yaftali during a press conference in Kabul on June 7, 2018. Photo: Wakil Koshar/AFP via Getty Images

On June 7, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban from June 12 to 20, which the U.S. said it would honor. The Taliban followed suit, announcing a 3-day ceasefire coinciding with the Afghan government’s.

Why it matters: The ceasefire’s outcome will almost certainly impact the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process: As the Taliban’s first ceasefire since the Afghanistan War’s inception in 2001, it indicates a strategic shift for how the group might engage in talks with the Afghan government. But the ceasefire also presents an opportunity for the U.S. and Pakistan to improve their bilateral relationship, which has hit a nadir.

Since 2001, U.S. administrations have repeatedly asked Pakistan to use its leverage against the Taliban to get them to the negotiating table, even as its influence over the Taliban has waned over the past decade. This time around, Pakistan, along with UNSC members, helped persuade the Taliban to reciprocate Ghani’s temporary truce. That's a positive sign for Pakistan, which has always sought a prominent role in U.S.–Afghan peace talks.

While the Trump administration refuses to hold direct negotiations with the Taliban, U.S. officials are still asking Pakistan to facilitate Afghan–Taliban peace talks, as part of the administration’s support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Pakistan may not be the most reliable partner for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, but it is a key regional player.

The bottom line: If the U.S. hopes to end its war in Afghanistan with a lasting political settlement, it needs to improve its relationship with Pakistan — and hold direct talks with the Taliban, which is part of Afghanistan’s political fabric.

Sahar Khan is a visiting research fellow in the Cato Institute's Defense and Foreign Policy Department.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

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The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

5 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.