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Fixing Afghanistan’s Flawed Peace Process

The current strategy to achieve a political settlement in Afghanistan is failing, because it neglects key Afghan institutions, excludes ordinary citizens from the process, and rewards the Taliban’s campaign of violence. Opting for political expediency in the service of unrealistic expectations will only place the country's future in greater peril.

OXFORD – In February, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban unconditional talks to negotiate a political settlement. To support the process, the United States also initiated direct talks with the Taliban, which the Taliban had been demanding. The Taliban has since responded by intensifying its campaign of violence, killing hundreds of civilians, including ten candidates in the recent parliamentary election and their supporters. The Taliban has also refused to talk to the Afghan government.

An overwhelming majority of Afghans wants a negotiated end to the conflict. But the current strategy to achieve a political settlement is failing, because it neglects key Afghan institutions, excludes ordinary citizens from the process, and rewards the Taliban’s campaign of violence.

If these flaws remain unaddressed, attempts to engage the Taliban may deepen Afghanistan’s political fragility and further weaken the state. The Afghan and US governments need to be pragmatic and adopt a longer-term perspective in their search for a political settlement, and not focus only on immediate concerns.

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