Why Afghan Peace Talks Are a Chess Match

Why Afghan Peace Talks Are a Chess Match
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, after signing a power-sharing agreement in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 17, 2020 (Photo by Afghan Presidential Palace via AP Images).

Afghanistan is still a long way from reaching a political settlement, but news this week that Afghan government negotiators will soon meet directly with Taliban leaders in Qatar is evidence that peace is possible. Or, at the very least, it may be one small step closer. The question now is whether a myopic focus on military issues will blind negotiators and stakeholders to the various pitfalls ahead on the long road to reconciliation.

Getting this far this fast only a few months after the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban is evidence that confidence-building measures are working. Yet if any one of the warring parties or potential spoilers like Pakistan feel that they are in the right position now to press for better terms, they have probably failed to understand the chess-like game at hand.

For all its bluster, the Trump administration is in a poor position to maneuver now that it is on the political backfoot ahead of November’s election. Post-impeachment, amid a raging pandemic and unrest over police brutality, the White House will be hard pressed to make any more dramatic moves while its plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Election Day faces skepticism from members of Congress.

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