TALIBAN Making Demands of U.S. WITHDRAWAL from Afghanistan

The Associated Press reported on the latest round of peace talks with the United States and Afghanistan. The Taliban wants to rewrite an agreement “in which American forces would withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees from the insurgents that they would fight terrorism.”

It’s a bit unsettling when the Taliban wants to make changes to a document saying they will help fight terrorism. The only reasonable conclusion is that they, in fact, do not want to help fight terrorism.

“We are working to rewrite the draft agreement and incorporate in it clauses that have been agreed upon,’ Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press.” According to the Associated Press “The two sides are trying to hammer out agreements that would see the eventual withdrawal of over 20,000 U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan and the end of America’s longest-running war.”

This round of talks began Saturday and are expected to continue this week. Expectations of the agreement include “guarantees that Afghanistan will not harbor groups like al-Qaida…and that the Taliban will continue fighting the Islamic State group, which has expanded its footprint in recent years.” After U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was “hopeful of reaching a deal by Sept. 1” others are not so certain. “Getting a comprehensive peace agreement with the Taliban before Sept. 1 would be nothing short of a miracle,’ said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center.”

A positive sign is that “Pompeo and Khalilzad have both said the final accord will include not only agreements with the Taliban on troop withdrawal and guarantees of a non-threatening Afghanistan but also agreement on intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent cease-fire.”

On the other hand, how much faith can be put in the Taliban? As the AP reports, “until now the Taliban has refused direct talks with the Afghan government…The Taliban view President Ashraf Ghani’s government as an American puppet but have said they will meet with members of his administration as individuals.” So what has changed? Can we truly believe that if they perceive the Afghan government as an “American puppet” that they have any desire to work with them at all?

Ultimately, despite positive rhetoric on both sides, the outcome of this week’s talks remain to be seen as “the insurgents, who effectively control half the country, have refused a cease-fire until the U.S. withdrawal is complete.”

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