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Troubled peace process

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A WIDELY asked question about Afghanistan today is whether Covid-19 would slow down or accelerate its tenuous peace process. The simple answer is that the stalled process has little to do with the pandemic and everything to do with the clashing interests of Afghan parties and their inability to break the persisting deadlock on initiating an intra-Afghan dialogue.

What the coronavirus outbreak has not done so far is to significantly affect the phased US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It may even be an additional incentive for Washington to stick to its drawdown plan irrespective of progress towards an intra-Afghan dialogue that can produce a negotiated end to the country’s long war. Indications are that the US drawdown from Afghanistan is proceeding as pledged in the US-Taliban agreement reached in Doha in February; American troops are supposed to reduce to 8,600 by this summer. Some reports suggest that some bases are already being cleared with US forces departing.

Meanwhile, top American diplomats have continued to urge the Afghan parties — the government and the Taliban – to show flexibility to break the stalemate over the prisoner swap, the principal obstacle to starting intra-Afghan negotiations. Under the Doha agreement both sides had to release a specific number of detainees in their custody — 5,000 held by Kabul and 1,000 in Taliban custody. On the completion of this, an intra-Afghan process was to begin about eight weeks ago. This never happened.

US election year makes bringing troops home top priority.

So far around 550 prisoners have been released........

© Dawn

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