The dialogue between Afghan and U.S. officials that took place in Vienna over the weekend was a show of better faith than last-minute meeting. On Sunday, the top representative of President Ashraf Ghani traveled to Geneva to advance the goal of substantive Afghan-U.S. talks sometime in September. After a meeting between Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker Sunday, the two finally confirmed the missing progress made so far in Vienna.
Of particular note, American efforts to negotiate with the Taliban apparently have collapsed. This occurred after the Taliban vowed to kill any U.S. convoy being designated as a propaganda target. (Right now, the Taliban are threatening to assassinate more than 400 police.) U.S. officials did report an uptick in negotiated assassinations between Taliban representatives and U.S. security force commanders, but those deals were quickly quashed.
Meanwhile, the Taliban refused to have an official meeting with Gen. Haqqani over the weekend. This was reportedly the third time that the Taliban had denied the group a high-level meeting, and new details also emerged from the government of President Ghani. At this point, any government that was willing to sit with the Taliban over an agreement to stabilize Afghanistan was a sign of genuine talks. The Afghan President had hoped his government would be able to negotiate that deal with the Taliban while simultaneously reaching out to the militants in private for negotiations. Now that such talks have been turned off, a falling-out between the Afghan government and the Taliban appears to be all but inevitable.
These confrontations could culminate into a messy and bloody conflict that would likely push the Americans out of Afghanistan at some point in the coming years. With this much theater surrounding the talks, it’s also safe to say that President Ghani’s ability to progress diplomacy is also threatened.