The end of the Afghan war?
Since the Taliban rose to power in 1996, the people of Afghanistan have lived a live of fear and deprivation. A cursory search for ground footage in preparation for this article offered little in the way of troop movement or news spots, but much in terms of brutal executions; the western world is still reeling in the wake of the horror that is ISIS, but for people living in Afghanistan and the surrounding areas, the violence isn’t a new trend—it’s a way of life.
As a rule, Taliban leadership has roundly refused to meet with leaders of the Afghan leadership; that, coupled with the brutality and absolute polarity of the ideological conflict itself, has made the Afghan war less easy to comprehend than other conflicts in the region. Recent developments, however, could signal the beginning of the end of outright hostilities. This evening (local time,) leaders from both the Taliban and the Afghan government are meeting in Islamabad to continue to discuss peace terms. Parties have been meeting for several months at various locations around the world—a fact that Taliban ground forces have roundly tried to cover up—but this meeting is being touted as having greater significance than the previously-disavowed discussions.
More from the Wall Street Journal:
A senior Afghan official said U.S. and Chinese officials took part in Tuesday’s meeting as observers. Their attendance, together with Pakistan’s willingness to play host, is significant as it points to a broadening involvement of key players in a possible peace process.
But it was unclear whether the meeting in Islamabad was fully backed by Taliban leadership. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group, said he wasn’t able to confirm whether the Islamabad talks took place at all.
A person briefed on the meeting said the three-member Taliban delegation was led by Mullah Abbas Akhund, who served as health minister when the Taliban were in power.
Much of the Taliban leadership is based in Pakistan, and persuading Islamabad to support efforts aimed at a political solution to the Afghan conflict has been a priority for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani since he came to office.
Don’t get too excited about US involvement—earlier this year, the White House hedged on its approach to negotiating with the Taliban:
Although the election of a new president has brought significant changes to the region, the violence still runs strong, but President Ashraf Ghani has had his hands full trying to control a ground game that has distinguished itself via corruption, and many of the Afghan fighters on the ground blame leadership in Kabul for the continued bloodying of various checkpoints and “safe” territory.
As far as the public face of these talks is concerned, I expect the media to focus a great deal on women’s rights issues in Afghanistan. After the US invasion in 2001, things should have gotten better for women; the government adopted additional protections for women and girls in both 2003 and 2009, but failed to enforce them. First Lady Rula Ghani has stepped into the role of women’s rights activist, but even she is reluctant to take too radical a tack against gender-based brutality:
When Ashraf Ghani became president last year, his wife Rula quickly carved out her role as a champion for women’s rights – but remains reluctant to call herself a feminist. “I have a very mild approach to things,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that my commitments are not strong.”
But there are growing fears about her husband’s apparent willingness to engage in peace talks with the Taliban. “We need to find solutions that include them,” she told the Washington Post recently. But, she said: “The women of today will not kneel in front of the Taliban,” she said. “We can make [women] even stronger and then the question will be moot — totally moot.”
Despite Ghani’s efforts and the work of a growing movement of activists, violence against women in the country is still rife. Earlier this year, a young Afghan woman called Farkhunda was brutally murdered and her body set on fire and thrown into a river by an angry mob of men who wrongly accused her of burning pages of the Koran. “There is a lot to be done before the equality of political rhetoric becomes an everyday reality for women in Afghanistan,” says Amnesty.
Here’s hoping Rula Ghani is right. We’ll keep you updated on the peace talks.
This post has been updated.DONATE
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