Peace talks halted as Taliban continue to target civilians

U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday said peace negotiations with the Taliban are taking a “brief pause” after the insurgent group staged an attack on the main U.S. military base in the country.
Taliban militants had the previous day struck near the Bagram U.S. military base, martyring at least two Afghan civilians and wounding more than 70 other people, including five Georgian soldiers.
The December 11 attack, which included at least one suicide car bombing, came as the United States last week resumed talks with the Taliban – three months after President Donald Trump abruptly halted negotiations to end the 18-year war.
“When I met the Talibs, I expressed outrage about attack on Bagram, which recklessly killed two and wounded dozens of civilians,” the U.S. diplomat tweeted. “Taliban must show they are willing & able to respond to Afghan desire for peace.” He also added: “We’re taking a brief pause for them to consult their leadership on this essential topic.” The restart of talks had followed Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving visit to see U.S. troops in Afghanistan on November 28, when he voiced hope that “the Taliban wants to make a deal and we are meeting with them.”
All three sides, the Afghan government, the Unites States, and the Taliban have signaled for resuming peace talks. Regional stakeholders also seek to put their weight behind the peace process, raising hopes for renewed negotiations. But the militant groups disrupting the process with their deadly attacks on civilians. They have time and again went against what they have said for peace and stability in the country.
Afghan officials believe that the role of regional states is crucial in the peace process and they have to put all their weight behind the talks with sincere intention and support intra-Afghan dialogue. Hosting Taliban delegation without consulting with the Afghan administration and having backdoor discussion with it will not be accepted by Afghans, rather would help recognize the group’s militancy and destructive activities in the country.
Although much has been said about the process and the Taliban delegation was hosted several times by regional states, no positive outcome has emerged. In short, Afghan government wants the states, which host the Taliban representatives, to show the positive result of their meetings and shouldn’t take any steps that further deteriorate the situation and the Afghans’ suffering continue for years to come.
Therefore, peace talks should be inclusive, and both the Afghan government and regional stakeholders have to be included in them. Meanwhile, Islamabad exercises influence over the Taliban leadership, many of whose members have their families living in Pakistan. The neighboring country should exhort the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and talk to Afghan government and shun violence against the innocents. 
Meanwhile, there is a strong need for formation of a national consensus to negotiate with the Taliban. Continuation of mistrust between the Afghan government and political leaders will inflict a strong blow to the peace process.

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