Jul 11, 2019

Afghan-Taliban talks advance with "roadmap" to peace

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.

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