For the first time since an American-led coalition toppled the Taliban in 2001, Afghan officials are engaged in formal talks with Taliban leadership. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani confirmed that members of the Afghan High Peace Council sat down for face-to-face negotiations in Islamabad, Pakistan this week. They were joined by deputy foreign minister Hekmat Karzai. The Taliban did not reveal who their negotiators are.
Ghani has made reconciliation with the Taliban a major goal of his administration. His predecessor, Hamid Karzai, uncle of the deputy foreign minister, established the High Peace Council in 2010 for exactly that purpose. Before this week, Afghan officials had met with the Taliban only informally in Qatar, Norway, and China.
The talks come after a series of bloody weeks in Kabul. In late June, the Taliban attacked the Afghan parliament, wounding dozens. Eight days later, a suicide car bomb wounded 21 Afghans in a NATO convoy. Tuesday, twin suicide bombs at the headquarters compound of Afghan intelligence targeted a foreign convoy. One person was killed and three are wounded.
In addition to settling with the Taliban, Ghani has also pursued closer ties with Pakistan. Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security and Pakistan’s ISI spy agency signed a cooperation agreement in May, despite deep mistrust of the ISI by many Afghans. Many in Afghanistan, including former-president Karzai, blame the ISI and Pakistan for harboring the Taliban, holding them partially responsible for 14 years of war.
President Obama has supported American negotiations with the Taliban at least since 2012. The American government held talks with the Taliban over a year ago, culminating in the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. In exchange, five senior Taliban members were released from Guantanamo Bay. In March, Bergdahl was charged with desertion.
Benjamin Parker is an intern at The Weekly Standard.