Chasing peace in the middle of war

The U.S.’s plans to withdraw about 7,000 troops, nearly half of its current strength, from Afghanistan, has invited strong, shocked reactions from Afghans as well as international stakeholders. The decision followed a three-day long meeting of the U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with Taliban members in Abu Dhabi earlier last week.While Mr. Khalilzad termed the talks “productive” on Wednesday, there were no indications that the U.S. was going to withdraw troops. However, analysts say this has long been in the offing.“Diplomats in Kabul have been talking about the ‘tweet of Damocles’ hanging over peace talks, fearing that (U.S. President Donald) Trump would bring home the troops abruptly,” said Graeme Smith, a consultant for the International Crisis Group. While this decision could affect security and political stability in Afghanistan, it could also be a show of good faith for the Taliban to negotiate peace, he added. “This could nudge the political process toward serious discussion of peace. A partial withdrawal could send a useful message to all sides.”A delegation of the Afghan High Peace Council, an independent body set up to negotiate with the insurgents, was also present at the talks. The Taliban has rejected holding talks with the Afghan government, which it often refers to as a “puppet regime”. “Discussions are taking place with the representatives of the U.S. about ending the occupation, a matter that does not concern the Kabul administration,” Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesperson, said in a statement.

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