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Is Peace with the Taliban Possible?

US President Donald Trump desperately wants to disentangle America from a seemingly unwinnable war in Afghanistan, preferably through a political settlement with the Taliban. But it is doubtful that the Taliban would be able to control other armed opposition groups or enlist the support of a cross-section of Afghanistan’s diverse population.

CANBERRA – Despite ongoing peace negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, the bloody conflict in Afghanistan continues to take a heavy toll on the country’s people. The recent suicide bombing by the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State (IS-K) at a wedding in Kabul, which killed more than 60 and injured close to 200, is a stark reminder of Afghanistan’s poor security situation. It also shows that the Taliban are not the only armed opposition fueling the conflict. A US-Taliban peace pact is therefore unlikely to bring any respite.

The US-Taliban negotiations in Doha – in which the Afghan government is not a participant – are comparable to two previous peace processes: the Paris talks that resulted in the January 1973 peace treaty between the US and North Vietnam; and the negotiations that led to the 1988 Geneva Accords, signed by the Afghan and Pakistani governments with the Soviet Union and the US acting as guarantors.

These two agreements were designed to enable the US and the Soviet Union to exit with “honor” from wars they could not win, by bringing about, respectively, the “Vietnamization” and “Afghanization” of those conflicts. Both agreements failed to achieve their objectives.

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