In Afghanistan, surging violence has worsened the sluggish pace of peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, jeopardizing a potential settlement to end the country’s decades of war. Reducing the bloodshed is a necessary step toward building trust for ongoing negotiations—a fact complicated by the fact that the Taliban view fighting as their primary source of leverage over the Afghan government.
Pakistan—by virtue of its long-standing relationship with the Taliban and their senior leaders, many of whom have resided within its borders—is arguably best positioned to persuade the Taliban to dial back the violence. But Islamabad is playing a game of chicken with Washington by pretending it cannot exert additional pressure over the Taliban. If the Biden administration wants any chance at persuading Pakistan to push the Taliban to reduce violence, then it is going to have to act quickly and make some tough decisions.
Pakistan helped to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table in Doha but stopped there. Rather than pushing the Taliban for an outright reduction in use of force, Islamabad has instead opted to tacitly support the Taliban’s bargaining position to enter into a cease-fire only on certain conditions: further concessions by Kabul and the departure of U.S. troops.
The country’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, recently said as much during a Jan. 26 phone call, when he told his Afghan counterpart that pushing talks forward would “facilitate [a] reduction in violence, leading to [a] ceasefire.” On Jan. 21, Khan’s adviser, Moeed Yusuf, reiterated that “Pakistan in itself can’t get a [Taliban] ceasefire.” This statement echoes previous claims that Pakistan could not convince the Taliban to negotiate with Kabul. So long as negotiations continue and U.S. troop levels do not increase, Islamabad may believe it is sitting pretty, regardless of the violence Afghans face.
Read the full article in Lawfare.