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US-Taliban Talks

Countries across the Asian region have rightly welcomed next week’s direct talks between the US government and representatives of the Taliban regime in Doha, Qatar. Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran – all of which facilitated the US withdrawal and have been doing what they can to keep the new Afghan government from collapsing – have been calling for just such an exchange for quite a while now. But they’re not holding their breath just yet because nothing is certain at this point. There is the hope that the interaction would bring Washington up to speed on the severity of the crisis currently unfolding in Afghanistan, which is exacerbated by President Biden’s decision to freeze the Afghan central bank’s money abroad and slap biting sanctions on the country.

Expectations are largely tempered by the fact that the two sides have had such exchanges before, and nothing at all changed because of it. America’s position was the same after the talks as it was going into them, which was demanding an inclusive government formed by the Taliban and greater emphasis on minority and women’s rights. Kabul, on the other hand, insists that it is committed to all promises made by it in the runup to the US departure, but first, it needs money to address far more urgent issues, which include the likelihood of a severe famine just around the corner, not to mention a complete collapse of the country’s already fragile banking system. And so we go round in circles.

Since this is a very rare opportunity, it bears noting that if the Americans are being unfair by blocking Afghanistan’s money and imposing sanctions on it, the Taliban must also answer for making the wrong kind of announcements at the worst possible time. Their statements about the position of women in society are giving the impression that little has changed about their thinking since their last time in power. Such things are unnecessary and become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

It is very clear, then, that both sides would have to take a step back for either’s interests to advance at all. So far both are counting on the other to blink first, which is hurting common Afghan people far more than either party to this paralysis. If the next round of talks cannot overcome this problem, then it won’t be anything to write home about and a horrible catastrophe will erupt in Afghanistan.

Source: Daily Times