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The intra-Afghan dialogue talks in Doha, Qatar, on July 7. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

A weekend dialogue in Doha, Qatar, between rival factions of Afghanistan's volatile politics and the Taliban has yielded a joint statement calling for an end to war.

Why it matters: The fledgling Afghanistan peace process is gaining critical momentum. Although the conference statement represents a vague roadmap rather than a firm agreement, the consensus reached arguably marks the biggest step yet toward a long-elusive peace.

Where it stands: The 7th round of U.S.–Taliban talks, which took a 2-day pause during the intra-Afghan dialogue, is likely to resume in the coming days. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he wants a deal before Sept. 1.

  • However, the Taliban refuses to lay down arms or negotiate directly with the Afghan government until it reaches a troop withdrawal deal with the U.S.
  • Washington, meanwhile, insists there can be no accord on troops until there is agreement on multiple issues — a troop withdrawal, counterterrorism assurances, a ceasefire and a Taliban commitment to launch formal talks with Kabul.

Yes, but: Afghanistan's Sept. 28 presidential election threatens to pull away the attention of political leaders. The campaign season may also exacerbate the country's sharp political rivalries and undercut efforts to forge a political consensus on peace.

  • These challenges help explain Washington's haste to secure a deal.

The bottom line: An end to the protracted conflict in Afghanistan has never appeared closer. But tough negotiations lie ahead, and reaching a quick deal to end America’s longest war remains a tall order.

Michael Kugelman is deputy director for the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center.

Go deeper

Omicron cases confirmed in 4 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant were detected in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, making New York the fourth state with confirmed cases.

The latest: In addition to New York, the variant has been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.

Early winter heat shatters records in U.S., Canada

Temperature departures from average on Dec. 2, 2021, as depicted by the GFS computer model. (Weatherbell.com)

A widespread and intense heatwave is roasting large portions of the U.S. and Canada, shattering daily and monthly temperature records.

Why it matters: Winter is the fastest-warming season across the U.S., and the lingering warmth is shortening the snow season in places like Colorado and Montana, where mountain snowpack is a critical source of water during the summer months.

5 hours ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.