Security, Middle East
Could domestic politicians and the international community work to maintain this peace momentum?
On June 7, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani made a powerful concession to the Taliban by offering the group a unilateral ceasefire for the annual Eid celebrations. The offer hung in the air the following day with the Taliban quiet and the Afghan people voicing fears that the offer was a concession of defeat.
The public and many politicians were caught off-guard. Analysts and former government officials called it “a futile exercise.” Despite fear and confusion, the deafening silence from the Taliban could only mean they were seriously considering a ceasefire—an unprecedented operational pause after nearly two decades of bloodshed. Then, as President Ghani was traveling to China to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao on the morning of June 9, an aide came with unexpected news. “Mr. President, ” he said, “Taliban reciprocated!” Ghani’s gamble paid off.
It was a bold decision to declare a ceasefire and invite one from the Taliban. The timing was ideal. Perhaps the long fasting days of deprivation without a ceasefire, the peace marchers on the way from Helmand, peace tents plotted in all thirty-four provinces, and the vocal young Afghans voicing strength and prosperity in peace were inspirational. American and NATO forces heartily supported and respected Kabul’s decision to exercise sovereignty and independence. This served to publically shed the image of the Afghan government as a puppet regime, a primary Taliban accusation and a major stumbling block to their direct negotiations with Kabul.