Months after the United States signed a historic agreement with the Taliban and a joint declaration with the Afghan government, Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives met on Saturday in Doha, Qatar, for an opening ceremony to officially mark the start of peace negotiations. However, for peace to take hold in the country, formidable challenges will need to be overcome during the talks.
Challenges that will likely feature prominently in talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban include the future of counterterrorism and security operations, the composition of a new Afghan government and constitution, and agreement on reconciliation and power-sharing measures. A number of important but unresolved domestic and regional issues that affect the Afghan people will also need to be addressed. These issues include women’s rights, the role of civil society, and regional stability and security.
The future of peace in Afghanistan is important not only for the people of Afghanistan, but also for the United States and its regional partners and allies. The conflict has been costly for both Afghanistan and the United States: 43,000 civilians, 58,500 Afghan police officers and soldiers, 2,350 U.S. troops, and 1,500 coalition forces have been killed, and the United States has spent between $822 billion and more than $1 trillion on its counterinsurgency and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the toll on the United States, as well as Afghanistan, has grown, domestic support for U.S. involvement has steadily declined. Certain U.S. and Afghan officials have recently expressed that a political solution is the only way to resolve the conflict.
Peace in Afghanistan is also shaped by the actions of major regional powers with a stake in the conflict, including China, the European Union, India, Pakistan, and Russia. These powers will be affected by the outcomes of intra-Afghan talks, and could use subversive means to secure their wide-ranging interests. Additionally, growing major power rivalry between the United States, China, India, and Russia could affect whether peace will spread throughout the region as a whole.
As the Afghan government and Taliban representatives negotiate Afghanistan’s future, it will be important to understand how these issues and the agreements that the United States signed in February 2020 could affect ongoing talks. The Center for Preventive Action (CPA) has compiled a resource page, “What to Know About the Afghan Peace Negotiations,” in order to provide an accessible overview of the February 2020 agreements, as well as background on the challenges facing their implementation. CPA has also identified broader domestic issues in Afghanistan that may affect the viability of the peace process, and acknowledges the role of powerful regional and major power actors by including information about their possible influence.
For more on what a failed Afghan peace deal would mean for the United States, and how U.S. policymakers should prepare for it, read “A Failed Afghan Peace Deal” by Seth G. Jones, Harold Brown Chair and director of the transnational threats project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and visit CPA's Global Conflict Tracker.