America and the Taliban are edging towards a deal

Jan 30, 2019

COULD THERE be a ray of hope for Afghanistan? After 17 years of fighting, America and the Taliban may be ready to lay down their arms. The adversaries have agreed in principle on a framework for ending their war, says Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s point man on Afghanistan.

The outline was forged in talks in Qatar that were originally scheduled to last two days but ended up being extended to six. It envisages America withdrawing troops in return for assurances that Afghanistan will never again become a haven for international terrorists. America also wants a ceasefire and the start of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which the Taliban have resisted until now.

Osama bin Laden was living in Afghanistan when he plotted the 9/11 attacks on America. It was to overthrow his protectors in the Taliban and to search for him that America first dispatched troops to the country in 2001. Part of their mission ever since has been to hunt for terrorists. The other part—helping build a stable democracy—has been justified on the grounds that Afghanistan may otherwise become a base for terrorists again.

Although in 2001 the Taliban invoked Afghan traditions of hospitality in their refusal to hand over bin Laden, for at least the past decade they have promised that Afghan soil will not be used to launch attacks on...

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