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Why the new ceasefires in Afghanistan won't end the war

Afghan Army Chief of Staff, General Sharif Yaftali, and Deputy Minister, General Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi, during a press conference in Kabul on June 7, 2018.
Afghan Army Chief of Staff Sharif Yaftali and Deputy Minister Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi during a press conference in Kabul on June 7, 2018. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

The war in Afghanistan, which has been raging for nearly 17 years, is experiencing its first-ever ceasefire — two, in fact.

The details: The first one, implemented today, was declared by the Afghan government. The second one, announced by the Taliban, will go into effect soon. Both will be brief and will mark the end of the Ramadan holiday.

The big picture: Any ceasefire in Afghanistan, no matter how fleeting, is a good thing. But while these truces set a hopeful precedent, they won’t lead to long-term peace anytime soon.

So long as the Taliban believes it's winning, it has no incentive to stop fighting. And the Taliban, which launched a fresh offensive in the southeastern province of Ghazni today, very much believes it's winning. It controls 40–50% of Afghanistan’s nearly 400 districts, and several weeks ago nearly seized the western city of Farah.

A brief lull in fighting will be of immense relief to Afghans, whom war has convulsed for years. Additionally, the two truces highlight the potential, no matter how remote, for joint efforts to end the war. Still, Kabul and Washington will need to work much harder to convince an emboldened Taliban to step off the battlefield. A single goodwill measure, even an unprecedented one, won't cut it.

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