After meeting for the third time, trilateral talks last week in the UK finally saw the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan agree to work towards bilateral peace. The target for this peace to be achieved is now set within the next six months. Prime Minister David Cameron has emphasised the need to build closer cooperation between the countries and claims both are now willing to “take all necessary measures” in realising this. Indeed in a joint statement from Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President and Asif Ali Zardar, the Pakistani President they spoke of the ‘urgency of this work’.
These discussions could be vital in achieving peace in the countries independently as well as together with collaboration playing an increasingly influential role. The talks, which centred around the Afghan-led peace process, also tried to encourage Taliban cooperation. Previously Karzai had abandoned ideas of cooperation with the Taliban after rejecting the set up of a Taliban office in Qatar due to fears that this would lead to the government in Kabul being sidestepped by the USA in favour of negotiating with the Taliban. This newfound willingness to work with the Taliban then could turn out to be key in restoring the countries. However, despite this hint at reform no representative from the Taliban attended the tripartite talks, threatening the practicality of the agreement.
Indeed relationships between the neighbours still seem uneasy. The Afghan government would like to see the release of Mullah Baradar, their former second-in-command of the Taliban, with the aim that he would be able to influence the Taliban into agreeing to talks in Kabul.
Nevertheless overcoming mistrust between the neighbouring countries is a big step towards overall peace. The importance of this certainly cannot be overlooked, with both sides emphasising again their commitment to signing the Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). Karzai even said that he hoped the future for the two countries would be a ‘very close, brotherly and good neighbourly’ relationship. It seems the Afghan government have recognised that once NATO troops leave Afghanistan in 2014 peace with Pakistan could be crucial in keeping the country’s stability.
It is hoped that these talks will lead to further commitments in the future including the strengthening of economic ties, free trade and border security. Working together is the obvious key here. David Cameron himself spoke of the “clear message to the Taliban’ calling for ‘now’ to be the time where ‘everyone’ could finally participate in ‘peace in Afghanistan”. Of course it is hard to see what will come of these discussions but Afghanistan is certainly on its way to ending this long war.