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By late this summer, the American position had been reduced to little more than determining when American troops would leave the country for good. The US government has refused to allow the Afghan government to directly participate in the talks in Doha, a move that the Taliban have said would immediately derail any progress made with the American team.

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I heard reports from within the Afghan military that US Special Forces soldiers have spent days and weeks on lockdown inside their bases, unable to conduct operations or even train with their Afghan counterparts. Resolute Support did not respond to an email request for comment on these allegations. For many Afghans, the Taliban are not to be trusted. Some people I spoke with said the US government is fundamentally misunderstanding the situation facing their country. But a growing number of Afghan and international voices are arguing the opposite: that the Taliban are using the negotiations to get Washington out of the picture, cut off the Afghan government from its international supporters, and retake the country by force.

Afghan government officials are tight-lipped about their perspectives, at least on the record. Some of the most illuminating conversations I had in Kabul were on deep background — no names, no official titles, nothing on the record. His argument was an accurate assessment of the situation the United States has created in Afghanistan since the negotiations with the Taliban began: The US government has simultaneously given the Taliban an aura of international legitimacy the group had never enjoyed while sidelining the internationally recognized democratic government of Afghanistan.

Since negotiations officially began last year, Taliban leaders have been released from prisons in Pakistan. International travel bans have been lifted to allow them to fly around the world for talks in Russia, Uzbekistan, and Qatar. Meanwhile, the Afghan government has been forced to watch the spectacle from Kabul, where American military leaders bring extra guards when they visit their Afghan military counterparts — guards that watch their alleged allies as closely as they watch for the Taliban. But while government officials may be hesitant to speak publicly, it often seems like every conversation in Afghanistan today is about the peace talks and the political situation in the country.

Come from the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan by Terry Glavin

Over the past few years, the American and Afghan governments have released less and less information about the status of the war against the Taliban. Meanwhile, the Taliban are perfecting their propaganda war online. In the aftermath of an attack, the Taliban often release their version of events within hours, sometimes minutes. The Afghan government struggles to release information coherently, if at all.

A photograph from the talks in Doha offered a particularly surreal moment: Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban representative, stood in the middle of a group of reporters — which included women with their heads uncovered. Some observers, including an Afghan American woman who met with the Taliban in Doha , suggest this showed a new leaf being turned: that the Taliban of today is not the Taliban that proudly executed a woman in a soccer field in front of foreign journalists in Afghans laughed at the suggestion, and Afghan women spoke out on Twitter about the hypocrisy exhibited by both the Taliban and the world.

As New U.S. Envoy Appointed, Turbulent Afghanistan’s Hopes of Peace Persist

A growing hashtag movement on Afghan Twitter, MyRedLine, has gone viral as thousands of Afghan women declared their dedication to pursuing education and employment even if the Taliban return to power. In Kabul, an Afghan university student privately voiced a concern that if the Taliban return, they may use the hashtag as a kill list for reprisals. We are going to fight as if there were no talks at all.

The relationship between the Taliban negotiating team in Doha and the groups fighting on the ground under the Taliban banner has been questioned as well. Rather than a strictly linear chain of command, some elements of what is commonly known as the Taliban are argued to be little more than extensive drug smuggling groups who prefer the leniency they enjoy under Taliban control and have committed money, men, and equipment to its cause.

The idea that the Taliban are a fragmented, loosely organized group became popular in Washington during the Obama administration, as it suggested a vulnerability to be exploited with the right mix of military and political pressure. I asked the newly appointed head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Shaharzad Akbar, if she trusted the Taliban at their word or if the peace talks are merely a tactic to pave the way for a Taliban offensive to retake the country. As a child, Shaharzad and her family were forced to flee to Pakistan as the Taliban rose to power.

In August, the Kakar Foundation hosted the first in a series of talks by academic experts in Kabul. The foundation is the living legacy of Dr. The talk featured a Columbia University professor and author, Dipali Mukhopadhyay. This is a difficult position for a government to find itself.

History of Afghanistan

After the talk, attendees were invited to speak. Afghan politicians are counting on US and international support of the Afghan government to continue if and when an American troop withdrawal occurs. Hundreds of helicopters and almost 2, tanks and armored vehicles were destroyed.

US support of the mujahideen ended after Soviet withdrawal in , leaving behind a vacuum of external funding and infrastructure support. While the US government was willing to send weapons and provide training for anti-Soviet fighters, American lawmakers basking in the glow of the collapse of the Soviet Union were less enthusiastic to fund the reconstruction of a war-ravaged country on the other side of the world.

Attempts by the more powerful mujahideen leaders to form a new government in the early s faltered as warlords, committed allies against the Soviets only a year before, jockeyed for power and slaughtered civilians caught in the crossfire. In Kandahar, a southern province, religious students began fighting against a corrupt local warlord.

- The Washington Post

They quickly took all of Kandahar, forcing their strict interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence on those under their control. The fighters took the Arabic word for student, talib , and added the Persian plural suffix, -an. The Taliban would take a majority of the country by force within two years, establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Kabul in Zalmay Khalilzad wrote of this time in his autobiography.

For many like Khalilzad, the burqa and beard were a small price to pay for an end to fighting, corruption, and war. I should have been more attuned to the possibility that the Taliban would take advantage of the situation to impose a harsh religious regime. While experts argue over how much of an impact America actually had in post-Soviet Afghanistan, many agree that arming dozens of mujahideen factions for a decade and then leaving those heavily armed groups to figure out peace directly contributed to the civil war and the rise of the Taliban.

Most of the funding provided by the US government for Afghanistan, both military and civil infrastructure, is set to expire in According to the report, almost every program to provide funding to Afghanistan will expire that year. Another question looming over the heads of those hopeful for a political solution to the war between the Afghan government and the Taliban is publicly unasked and notedly unanswered: If the Taliban take a significant amount of control over the Afghan government through negotiations or force, will the United States continue to fund it?

The Panjshir Valley holds a blood-drenched distinction among the Afghan provinces: It has never fallen to the Taliban. During the civil war and Taliban reign in the s, a Panjshiri military leader — now celebrated by many as a national hero, albeit a complicated one — Ahmad Shah Massoud, led an army of fighters who held off the Taliban for years. According to Taliban documents released by the Long War Journal , this offensive was merely the beginning of a larger military strategy.

In hope of fresh and significant progress in the near future in this strategic province! Controlling Panjshir would show Afghanistan — and the world — that the Taliban is now more powerful than ever before, even when they were the de facto rulers of the country. More importantly, it would cut off Kabul from vital eastern provinces, tightening a noose around the capital city. The document makes no mention of the negotiations in Doha, nor does it mention any governance projects or the state of civilians living in the areas now under Taliban control. It is not the statement of a group attempting to bring peace to Afghanistan and its many internal ethnic and political divisions.

On a street in Kabul, a shop has been shuttered since late July. A neighboring shopkeeper told me the owner had gone to Panjshir, his home province, and would be there for some time.

As we approached the eastern end of Paryan, dozens of cars lined the road next to canvas tents and vendors selling treats to the vacationers. Adults and children alike splashed in a small stream feeding the roaring Panjshir river from still-melting snow that capped the surrounding mountains. Goats lazily grazed on late summer grass nearby. It was easy to forget that the Taliban were only five miles to the east. In Paryan, we stopped ahead of the frontline to meet with local mujahideen leaders, and to arrange a meeting with a frontline commander.

Many of the mujahideen in Panjshir fought against the Taliban in the s, but the oldest I spoke with cut his teeth fighting against the Soviet forces in the s, when Panjshiris left the fertile valley and took to the mountaintops and caves hidden from the helicopters and bombers above. For years, entire villages lived only to fight and tend to their wounded. There have been talks to end the nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan. A landmark prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine has revived hopes of a peace agreement between the two. The better angels of our nature seem to be winning.

If this sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Such optimism is built on shaky foundations. The idea that humanity is past the era of war. This site uses cookies to improve your user experience.


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