Afghan peace talks that began in Doha on September 12 are a “historic opportunity” that could bring a close to four decades of conflict in the country and end America’s longest war, said the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation on Thursday. The ongoing talks are the “heart of the Afghan peace process,” said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. “It's important to be fully aware of the significance of this moment, and to recognize its historic relevance.” With a note of a cautious optimism, he said there is hope but still a long road ahead, with many thorny issues to be negotiated.
Afghanistan’s peace process could be taking a major step forward in August with the potential commencement of intra-Afghan talks, said the U.S. chief negotiator on Friday. “This is an important moment for Afghanistan and for the region—perhaps a defining moment,” said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Peace in Afghanistan would redound to the benefit of the entire region. As the peace process stumbles forward, one critical but often overlooked element is the role of Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors.
The head of Afghanistan’s new peace council said yesterday that he is optimistic that intra-Afghan talks can start in the coming weeks, but increased levels of violence and details of prisoner releases may slow the start of talks. Chairman Abdullah added that the government’s negotiating team will be inclusive and represent common values in talks with the Taliban. The team “will be diverse and represent all walks of life,” Abdullah said. Afghans and analysts have expressed concern that without an inclusive negotiating team, the country’s hard-won, democratic gains could be compromised for the sake of a deal with the Taliban.
After a year and a half of negotiations, the U.S. and Taliban have reached an interim agreement to reduce violence for a period of seven days. If that agreement holds, the two sides will formalize a pact that would lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a phased U.S. troop withdrawal. Although the reduction in violence is an important achievement, it is but one step on a long, rocky road to peace, noted current and former senior U.S. officials on February 18 at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Fresh off a busy election season, Prime Minister-designate Habib Jemli is in the process of forming Tunisia’s next government. That government will have the daunting task of addressing Tunisians’ deep disenchantment with the political class and its failures to live up to the promise of the 2010-2011 uprising that led to the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. “The big problems confronting Tunisians have not been given enough importance” from the country’s political parties, said Abdelfattah Mourou, the first presidential candidate of the Ennahda party, during an interview at USIP.
This year saw protests across the globe, as citizens bridled under what they consider the tyranny of their governments. From Iraq to Zimbabwe, Hong Kong to Chile, demonstrators even in places with ample surveillance and retributive regimes have worked to make their voices heard. But alongside these movements, misconceptions about how they work persist—and plague our understanding of their goals, their methods and their outcomes.
If foreign powers ceased their involvement in Libya, the country’s protracted civil war could come quickly to an end, said Mohamed Syala, the foreign minister of the Government of National (GNA), in an interview with the U.S. Institute of Peace. The role of outside powers in Libya’s conflict has garnered renewed international attention in recent weeks as Russia has ramped up its support for Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s forces.
It’s been over a year since the U.S., led by Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, opened talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the 18-year war. Over that year, Afghan women have demanded a seat at the negotiating table, worried that the hard-won gains made over the last two decades could be in jeopardy. Even with the peace process stalled, “it is vital that the U.S. remain engaged” to ensure that Afghan women’s rights are protected, said Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) last week at the U.S. Institute of Peace’s latest Bipartisan Congressional Dialogue.
The surprise results of Tunisia’s first-round presidential election gave a clear message to the country’s political establishment: Tunisians want change and they want it now. Neither of the two winning candidates set to face off in the second round have ever held political office nor are affiliated with the political parties that have led Tunisia’s transition. Many of the issues that sparked the uprising eight years ago—like corruption and unemployment—continue to bedevil the North African nation. Yet the first-round vote demonstrates that Tunisians aren’t willing to give up on democracy and want new leaders.
Iraq’s landmark 2018 national elections—the first since the military defeat of ISIS—presented an opportunity for a much-needed course correction for the country’s sclerotic political process. Unfortunately, that opportunity was not seized properly. The vote was marred by claims of widespread fraud, low voter turnout, a delayed results announcement and a protracted government formation process.