Is it time for optimism in Afghanistan?
On February 28, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban peace talks without preconditions as a way to end the nearly two-decade-long conflict in his country. A month later, as delegates from more than 20 countries gathered in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to discuss ways to restore stability to Afghanistan, there still hasn’t been a formal response from the Taliban. Officials, meanwhile, have held out hope that the absence of a reply is cause for optimism. “[W]e have not seen them reject the proposal, which … is in itself a positive sign,” Alice Wells, the U.S. State Department official who oversees South and Central Asia, said earlier this month at the U.S. Institute for Peace. “And I would underscore our hope and expectation that the Taliban leadership will analyze the proposal seriously and carefully.”
Ghani’s unprecedented overture to the Taliban includes the offer of talks without preconditions. It would also allow its members to run for government, release Taliban fighters from prison, and require foreign forces to leave Afghanistan. The Taliban, who ruled the country until the U.S.-led invasion in retaliation for the attacks of September 11, 2001 (which was conceived and executed by al-Qaeda, a group granted refuge in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime), is reportedly considering the offer. That has not prevented it from carrying out attacks across the country—nor does it mean its leaders will accept the proposal.