The recent surprise meeting between a U.S. official and the Taliban raises hope that an end to the 17-year-long war could be in the negotiation process.
“This latest U.S. initiative to pursue peace through negotiations is a serious effort,” said Hassan Abbas, author of “Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence and Deviance."
Speculation about a negotiated peace with the Taliban intensified recently after a U.S. official met with representatives of the Taliban on July 29 in Qatar for a preliminary meeting to discuss the potential for future peace talks in Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press.
The war in Afghanistan has seen few examples of communications between the U.S. coalition forces and the Taliban. One of the most recent and publicized interactions between the U.S. and the Taliban was the exchange for former prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban leaders. The Taliban previously set up a political office in Qatar for the possibility of peace talks.
The latest diplomatic effort comes after years of war and lingering questions about the U.S. mission’s effectiveness.
“[The] U.S. cannot stay there for ever ― and kinetic means are not potent enough to win the day for us as we have learned through this dragging campaign," Abbas told Military Times.
“The essence of Taliban ideology has not changed and drivers of insurgency are not diminishing yet but Taliban stamina is being tested like never before.”
Since the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban lost its figure of authority. It is difficult for any U.S. representatives to meet with Taliban officials and actually get potential agreements fulfilled, explained Marvin Weinbaum, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Marvin Weinbaum, who was the director of the Program in South Asia and Middle Eastern Studies for 15 years, said he believes the preliminary talks are just that: preliminary.
“Meetings like this raise questions like, ‘Did we loose? Did we win?’ It makes soldiers wonder what they fought for," said Dr. Sean McFate, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
The Taliban have long wanted all foreign troops to vacate Afghanistan. In prior statements released by spokesmen, the Taliban want direct communication with the U.S. to discuss the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition forces from the country.
The Taliban’s criteria, however, runs counter to the current expanding mission and efforts of the U.S. in Afghanistan.
McFate said he believes that the U.S. is experiencing a moment similar to U.S. sentiment in 1975 after the 1973 signing of the Paris Peace Accords, the agreement to end the war in Vietnam.
McFate also emphasized that the U.S. has never had direct meetings with al-Qaida similar to what’s taking place with the Taliban.
He explained that due to a lack of a complete decisive victory in Afghanistan, unlike what the U.S. has historically seen in Berlin, “we should not be surprised that the State Department is conducting these meetings.”
“We do not want to leave Afghanistan to the Taliban," said McFate.
The State Department did not confirm nor deny that any official met directly with the Taliban.
“The United States is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government,” said State Department officials to the Associated Press.
Neil is a former US Army Captain and served operational deployments in South Korea and Afghanistan. He is currently an Editorial Fellow at the Military Times.