The Endgame to Afghanistan's Long War Takes Shape

Jan 30, 2019 | 15:19 GMT

Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor visits North Waziristan, near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, on Jan. 27, 2019.

Pakistan army spokesperson Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor (R) visits a market in Miran Shah, a town in North Waziristan, near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, on Jan. 27, 2019. 



  • Though the speed and scale of its drawdown have yet to be determined, the United States will push to withdraw from Afghanistan as it shifts its focus to its strategic competition with China and Russia.
  • Because a U.S. withdrawal is so critically important to the Taliban, they will most likely commit to a tentative cease-fire agreement, yet their desire to drive a hard bargain could complicate the larger peace negotiation process.
  • Pakistan will encourage an orderly and measured U.S. drawdown to prevent a security vacuum from emerging on its western flank.
  • At the same time, Islamabad will push for any post-conflict government in Kabul to include strong Taliban representation.

Hopes for a lasting peace settlement in Afghanistan between the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and the insurgent Taliban appear to be at their highest point in years. U.S. and Taliban officials meeting for a fourth round of talks in Qatar that lasted most of last week both reported significant progress on a draft accord that includes a proposal for a U.S. troop withdrawal and a Taliban cease-fire, sticking points that have derailed previous efforts to negotiate a peaceful solution to the yearslong conflict in the country. Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born diplomat leading the U.S. negotiating team, traveled to Kabul this week to discuss the mechanics of the tentative agreement with Ashraf Ghani, president of the U.S.-backed Afghan unity government, which has been left out of the talks thus far. Despite the progress of the talks, Khalilzad emphasized that the parties have yet to reach an accord and would not finalize a...

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