The Afghan government and the Taliban are holding the first peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the talks as a really significant breakthrough. On the other hand, the head of the Afghan Peace Council has described it as an exceptional opportunity for peace.
For four consecutive decades, there have been conflicts in Afghanistan in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. The ongoing peace talks took place after the US and Taliban reached a security deal in February.
The talks are historic because for the first time the representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government are holding direct talks. The militants had been refusing to meet the government, accusing them of being powerless and puppets of America.
The ongoing face-to-face meeting is now a great opportunity for both sides to politically reconcile and find a solution to the violence that has been observed for decades since the Soviet invasion in 1979.
The US found itself in conflict after the Taliban launched deadly Al-Qaeda attacks in New York. And American troops have been stationed in Afghanistan for about two decades.
Although the American troops managed to drive out the Taliban by airstrikes in 2001, 19 years of conflict are the longest in US history.
Nader Nadery, a senior Afghan negotiator, said the talks were very emotional and difficult, but very important. He added that everyone has lost loved ones and the land they love so much has been destroyed. And so it is so difficult to face and talk to people who have killed their relatives.
While everyone participating in the ongoing talks has recognized that this is challenging and difficult, as well as deep differences of opinion between the two sides during the talks, they also expect something positive to come of it.
Mr. Pompeo, in his opening speech, also acknowledged that the talks will bring many challenges, but added that it will benefit future generations and will also affect how much aid is sent in the years to come.
The head of the Afghan delegation, Mr. Abdullah, said it was not necessary for the two sides to reach 100% agreement in front of the panel, but it was hoped that they would agree to a ceasefire.
The first demand made by the Taliban through its leader, Mr. Mullah Baradar Akhund to Afghanistan, was called for the introduction of an Islamic system in which all tribes and races will live their lives in love and brotherhood.
The Taliban leader added that negotiations could face many challenges but should be continued with patience.
There were gender issues in the ongoing negotiations. The activist for women’s rights has pointed out that there is not a single woman represented on the Taliban’s negotiating team. It is therefore worrying for many that the lack of representation of women will mean a sacrifice for women’s rights in this process.
The talks also pose a challenge to the Taliban militia as they have to come up with a concrete political vision for Afghanistan. They could also show how they have changed in their choice since the 1990s.