Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Rising Violence Threatens To Derail Peace Talks

The US special envoy for Afghanistan warns the "window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever".

The US special envoy for Afghanistan has said violence in the country is too high, and the "window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever".

Zalmay Khalilzad made the comments on Twitter, ahead of another round of peace talks with the Taliban in Doha.

There is concern that rising violence is sapping trust and threatening to derail peace talks.

In the UK, a Lords Committee has been hearing evidence from key witnesses about how the UK’s involvement has affected the situation in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls.

Of the 21 Afghan government representatives at the peace talks, four are women.

Special Envoy of the President, Dr Sima Samar, said: "It is not enough, we are not satisfied, but it is better than nothing."

She believes the presence of women at the negotiating table would be a "very powerful tool" for those who believe in democracy.

"It [would] put pressure on Taliban to accept the reality and the existence of women – being part of the society there," Dr Samar added.

"Women's inclusion in the peace process will make the peace more durable and sustainable."

Insecurity across Afghanistan continues to be the biggest barrier to progress for women, and that has increased through the peace talks. 

"The Taliban are wanting to replace the constitution, that's one of their negotiating tactics," said Baroness Hodgson of Abinger, Fiona Hodgson, speculating that the group wishes to set up a committee "of Islamic leaders".

"When the US were talking to the Taliban it was without the Afghan government and there was no mention of women's rights, so I do think this is a very, very worrying development."

At the weekend, the UK handed over the Afghan Officer Training Academy, affectionately known as Sandhurst in the Sand, to Afghan control. 

It is another sign that the UK and other international forces are rapidly exiting the country and the conflict, but the question remains, what kind of government rises from the ashes of four decades of war.

Cover image: Sunset behind Gardez mountains in Afghanistan (Picture: NATO).