United States president Donald Trump has called off talks with the Taliban and cancelled signing of an agreement with them. The trigger, he said, was a suicide bomb which killed one US soldier and “11 other people” carried out “seemingly to strengthen their bargaining position.” However, voices against the ‘agreement in principle’ deal had already been mounting in Washington and Kabul, especially since the Afghan leadership was shown the text of the deal last week.
While Taliban said that Trump’s decision to cancel Afghan peace talks will cost more American lives. Taliban spokesman, criticized Trump for calling off the dialog and said U.S. forces have been pounding Afghanistan with attacks at the same time. “This will lead to more losses to the U.S.,” he said. “Its credibility will be affected, its anti-peace stance will be exposed to the world, losses to lives and assets will increase.”
In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Afghan peace talks were on hold and Washington would not reduce U.S. military support for Afghan troops until it was convinced the Taliban could follow through on significant commitments. The United States has recalled U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad to chart the path forward. Trump has long wanted to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since his days as a candidate and American diplomats have been talking with Taliban representatives for months about a plan to withdraw thousands of U.S.
troops in exchange for security guarantees by the Taliban. Afghans cautiously welcomed the halt to any secret US-Taliban summit and appeared reluctant to support such talks at all with the US. Pakistan on Sunday urged the United States and Taliban to resume the peace talks to find a solution in Afghanistan and reiterated that there is “no military solution” to the 18-year-long war. “Pakistan will continue to monitor the developments.
Pakistan reiterates its principled policy stance that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and urges that both sides must re-engage to find negotiated peace from the ongoing political settlement process,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office said. The cancellation leaves a question mark over the future of peace talks intended to bring American involvement in Afghanistan to an end. Islamabad is now worried over the sudden breakdown in talks because it fears that the new situation may put more pressure on Pakistan to do more to convince the Taliban for a ceasefire.
It was always difficult to see how the agreement, or what we have seen of it, would lead to peace, but what follows now is even less clear. It is not certain, what Trump does next: double down on the war or order unilateral troop withdrawals. The Taliban still have the upper hand militarily but it is difficult to see anything certain arriving via the battlefield with the exception of more violence.
Whatever the facts of who was responsible for the scrapping of the agreement and the end to the talks although it is still not clear from all sides’ statements whether they are indeed completely over it seems there were always structural problems with them. However, Pakistan has invested so much in the ongoing reconciliation process with the hope that this may pave the way for some semblance of peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan must get involved other regional players such as Russia and China to get the desired results for the Afghan peace deal. China and Russia also maintain ties with the Taliban and Pakistan, instead of taking solo responsibility, must strive for a regional approach. Nevertheless, the sudden deadlock in talks after months of painstaking negotiations will test Pakistan’s diplomatic skills to ward off any eventuality and improve its ties with Washington at a time when Islamabad desperately needs its support against the backdrop of brewing tensions with India over Kashmir.