Political Corner: The recent peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban could be putting Afghanistan at serious risk

Photo by Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters

Written by: Kelly Grounds, Peak Associate

The war in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, codenamed Operation Enduring Freedom. Ironically, the operation did not bring freedom, but instead endured for 17 years. But there’s potentially an end in sight as the first week of peace talks have ended between the United States and the Taliban.

America’s essentially been working to pull out of Afghanistan since the Obama administration, which endured two failed peace talks in 2013 and 2015. This only heightened this desire and now it appears that the war in Afghanistan is closer than ever to being done.

While discussions are extremely private at the moment, there appears to be two goals. First, the U.S. wants the Taliban not to allow another international terrorist group to establish its headquarters in Afghanistan, as they did with al-Qaeda in the early 2000s. The Taliban, meanwhile, are demanding a timeline for the removal of U.S. troops, as well as the establishment of an Islamic government.

Yet the Afghan government is afraid that these peace talks and the inevitable removal of U.S. troops will only worsen the entire situation in Afghanistan, as there will be significantly fewer forces in place to oppose insurgence groups and hold them back from gaining greater power.

A key worry to be had with these talks is that these were between the U.S. and the Taliban, rather than the Afghan government. With this choice, the U.S. showed that they see the Taliban as holding all of the power. Even if this was unintentional, it still risks sending conflicting messages to Afghanistan about who they trust and wish to work with.

Furthermore, the Taliban are still an illegal group and have carried out devastating attacks on different government facilities in recent months. The U.S. presence is one of the only stabilizing factors in the country at the moment. If they leave now, there is a chance that the Taliban could return to their full power and destroy all of the progress that Afghanistan has made.

The peace talks have only just started, but given this shaky ground, there’s a high chance this peace talk will fall out like the previous two. Whether they succeed or fail, it is likely that the U.S. is going to leave this time, and their exit would have a direct effect on the future of Afghanistan.