Small Wars Journal

Why Some Experts are Cautiously Optimistic About Peace Talks With the Taliban

Why Some Experts are Cautiously Optimistic About Peace Talks With the Taliban by Alex Ward – Vox News

The United States has restarted conversations with the Taliban, the hardline Islamist group that America and NATO set out to dislodge more than 16 years ago. It’s part of the Trump administration’s effort to end America’s longest war, which has killed around 2,400 Americans and more than 30,000 Afghan civilians.

It’s still unclear if the new talks will lead to a political resolution; one expert I spoke to put the chances of success at around 20 percent. But others see it as an ambitious and bold move that could potentially lead to some kind of tenuous peace for the country. And the reason for this renewed optimism, surprisingly, has to do with the Taliban itself.

The organization remains one of the most brutal and religiously conservative insurgent groups in the world. But in recent years, it has shown signs of moderate but important change, like adhering to its first ceasefire with Afghan forces in June, and even allowing women and minorities to play a larger role in the organization.

The latest push for talks between the US and the Taliban also stems from the reality on the ground. The Taliban, along with other insurgent groups, keep gaining control or influence over territory and people in Afghanistan. The US-backed Afghan government and troops, meanwhile, continue to lose ground. So any end to the conflict would require Washington and Kabul to strike some accord with the Taliban, although the insurgent group currently only wants to talk to the US first to ensure it leaves Afghanistan.

Experts disagree on whether to trust the Taliban as a good-faith negotiator. Still, some in Washington and Kabul consider talking to the Taliban the best and most viable option after nearly two decades of fighting.

“It’s clear that people are daring to hope [that] a peace process could go somewhere — to a greater degree than it has in many years,” Johnny Walsh, an Afghanistan expert at the US Institute of Peace, told me…

Read on.