U.S., Afghans, Taliban begin peace talks

In the past decade, war and civil unrest in the Middle East have raged on. However, just this week, officials from the United States, Afghanistan and the Taliban began holding meetings in hopes of  putting an end to the violence in Afghanistan.

These initial talks focused on building confidence and trust between the officials and laying the framework for peace talks to come.

“We have not yet reached to the stage of holding peace talks with the international community,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid to BBC News. “The focus is on initiation of CBMs (Confidence Building Measures) before the talks for peace; consensus in this connection is in the developing process, but so far even implementation of the measures have not been started.”

Both sides are hesitant to work with each other after so many years of bloodshed. However, they believe a common goal can be formed with the help of the Afghan government.

One of the biggest issues being discussed is the freedom of Taliban members being held in Guantanamo Bay. To resolve this issue, the U.S. government has agreed to move five of the Taliban captives from the detention facility, reported BBC.

“They said it on the record, yes, that is part of the talks,” said Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers to Fox News. “This is a really bad idea. And we have told them that. There is no way they could walk out of any of those meetings thinking they had some support coming out of the U.S. Congress.”

After 10 years of fighting, it is easy to see why many would be hesitant to assist the Taliban, especially if it means the release of potentially dangerous individuals, as Rogers points out. While it has the potential to be disastrous, it could secure the Taliban’s trust in the U.S. peace efforts and create an alliance between the two.

Many voice similar concerns about the risks of releasing these five prisoners. As a senior congressional official commented, “the IC (Intelligence Community) has determined that all five were too dangerous to be released.”

However, there are many who remain positive that this is the right way to go about bringing peace to Afghanistan.

“There’s a risk that the Taliban sit there and think there’s some kind of divide-and-rule going on from the international side … and that actually no negotiated deal is possible, and that they are far better off maintaining the coherence of their leadership,” said Michael Semple, former EU envoy to Kabul to BBC.

However, the U.S. government has refused to release these five men until the Taliban agrees to release three U.S. captives as well, as a show of good faith. With such controversy around the exchange, many wonder why the U.S. is negotiating with the militant group.

“While Al Qaeda just wants to kill people, the Taliban have definite governing ambitions,” said one of the U.S. officials in charge of the negotiations to CNN. “They want Afghanistan back — but to accomplish that, they only need to do the minimum. They don’t need to control every inch of land, just be present enough to exert influence.”

It is expected that working and creating a lasting peace with the Taliban will strengthen the Afghan government’s hold on the people as well as end many of the violent acts that have been occurring in the country.

“Their leadership … looks rather more coherent and united than anything on either the Afghan government or international side,” said Semple.

The Taliban would be a powerful ally to the Afghan and U.S. governments in the continuing Middle Eastern conflict, and such an alliance could help to end the decade-long war.