A Deal With the Taliban Is Only the First Step Toward Peace

The Real Negotiations Are About to Begin

At the site of a car bombing in Kabul, August 2019 Omar Sobhani / Reuters

After months of closed-door negotiations in Doha, Qatar, the United States appears close to finalizing a deal with the Taliban that would end Washington’s 18-year war in Afghanistan. The agreement would reportedly set a conditional timetable for the United States to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in exchange for Taliban commitments to suppress terrorist groups and open peace talks with their fellow Afghans.

The deal is controversial. Supporters (and I am one of them) view the agreement as far preferable to the status quo—a bloody battlefield stalemate—and a necessary first step toward any deal among Afghans to end the war. Critics worry that the deal sells out Washington’s Afghan allies, places naive trust in an extremist group, and provides cover for a troop withdrawal that Trump wants regardless of whether it makes diplomatic or military sense.

Ultimately, though, no U.S.-Taliban agreement will determine Afghanistan’

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