The role of the U.S. in Afghan-Taliban peace talks
© Getty

A resurgent Taliban is threatening to overrun a substantial part of Afghanistan and is just 200 miles away from Kabul. An ISIL offshoot, ISIL-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), is emerging in the east. Afghan security forces are stretched thin fighting on multiple fronts. The war is pulling American troops back into combat: The United States sees no way out of Afghanistan.

As the new administration is taking shape under president-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Will Mueller play hardball with Trump? Mexican presidential candidate vows to fire back at Trump's 'offensive' tweets Elizabeth Warren urges grads to fight for 'what is decent' in current political climate MORE, it is time for the U.S. to reconsider its strategy. War and military operations are not effective solutions for long lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Negotiation and reconciliation, however, could bring peace. By supporting an Afghan-led, and Afghan-owned, peace and national reconciliation process, the U.S. can bring an end to its longest war, and contribute to peace and stability in Afghanistan.

ADVERTISEMENT
So far, the U.S. government has shown bipartisan determination to continue engagement in Afghanistan. Current U.S. policy involves supporting the Afghan government and security forces to defend the country, and to govern effectively and transparently. It also includes airstrikes, and other counterinsurgency measures against Al-Qaeda and ISIL-KP.

However, the policy lacks a long-term vision for peace and stability in Afghanistan. To achieve that goal, the U.S. should work with the Afghan government and regional allies to urge the Taliban leaders to come to the negotiating table, end the insurgency, and join the peace process.

By supporting Afghan-Taliban peace talks, the U.S. will renew its commitment to lasting peace and security in Afghanistan. Military operations alone cannot create a lasting peace. They play a useful role only when paired with strong and constructive diplomacy. 

An Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process will bring the Taliban under Kabul’s sphere of influence.  It will incentivize the group to abandon its Al-Qaeda partners, and break ties with the terrorist network. It will also motivate other Afghan militants to lay their weapons and join peace negotiations. Just recently, in a historic move, Hekmatyar-led Hizb-e-Islami (Islamic Party), a radical militant group, signed a peace deal, ending its long-standing conflict with the Afghan government. The peace deal with the Islamic Party provides a framework for talks with the Taliban. 
 
The peace process is also an essential step for regional integration. The Afghan government is collaborating with key regional actors who are equally concerned about the re-emergence of Taliban. Pakistan seems to recognize its vulnerability if the Taliban grows too strong in Afghanistan. China is anxious about radicalization of Muslims in its far northwest. This effort will bring key actors together to support Afghanistan’s struggle with an enemy that they all share.
 
Critics argue that peace talks will fail because there is no guarantee that the Taliban would end its insurgency after signing a peace deal. However, there are several ways that the Afghan government can prevent a resurgence of the Taliban. 
 
First, a concerted effort by the Afghan government to stop poppy cultivation and drug trafficking would cut off the Taliban's source of income and diminish its ability to mobilize, recruit and launch attacks.
 
Second, the U.S. should continue to target the remnants of al-Qaeda and other groups, particularly ISIL-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), so that they cannot use Afghan territory to launch attacks against the U.S. This will show the Taliban that there is no turning back after a peace deal. They can either live in harmony and peace with their countrymen and women or get crushed by American airstrikes. 
 
Third, the Taliban issued a statement announcing the group's support for "national projects" including the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline. By promoting such projects beneficial to all Afghans, the U.S. could diminish incentives for Taliban's fight against "foreign occupiers".   
 
Finally, the Afghan government and the U.S. need Pakistan’s cooperation in the process. Pakistan has great leverage and control over the Taliban. The Afghan government with the support of the U.S. could put pressure on Pakistan to stop its aid to insurgent groups, take action against Taliban and Haqqani leaders, and support reconciliation efforts.  
 
Reconciliation and a political settlement with the Taliban should become an integral part of the U.S. security strategy in Afghanistan. Through strong support for the peace and reconciliation process, the U.S. will renew its commitment to defeating terrorists, ending the war, and bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan. 
 
Marzia Faraz is a graduate student from Afghanistan. She studies International Affairs at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. Marzia can be contacted at mfaraz@gwmail.gwu.edu

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.