The Afghan way to a deal with the Taliban

President Trump’s scuttled talks with the militant group can now lead to a focus on an election that will further show the source of power in Afghanistan.

Afghan women attends an election campaign rally by President Ashraf Ghani, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 5.

After nearly a year of negotiations with the Taliban, President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks on Saturday with a string of Twitter messages. The reason: The Taliban killed 12 people last week, including an American soldier. With so little regard for life or the equality of Afghans, the terrorist group could hardly be expected to make good on a deal that would have required a cease-fire leading to withdrawal of United States forces.

The news brought a sigh of relief to many Afghans who worry Mr. Trump might be putting a U.S. pullout ahead of preserving the country’s progress in basic rights and democratic freedoms. Even more than relief, the breakdown in talks renews a focus on exactly what the Taliban most oppose: elections.

On Sept. 28, Afghans of all ethnicities and religions will cast ballots for president, the seventh election since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban. For all the flaws of voting in an insecure environment and infighting among Afghan leaders, the ballot box still confers a moral legitimacy far above that claimed by the militants, who rely on guns to impose unelected religious authority.

“Now the important question for the people and government of Afghanistan, and the international community, is what will happen to the elections,” says a spokesman for President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.

Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries and one with frequent terror attacks, Afghanistan still manages to pull off an election. In last year’s parliament elections, around 4 million out of 8.8 million registered voters showed up. Yet in rural areas controlled by the Taliban, voting doesn’t even happen. The country keeps learning how to improve the process. Many former warlords now compete for votes on the campaign trail rather than with bullets on mountain trails. And for the current election, as many as 18 candidates were in the running at one point.

Elections help Afghans realize they are inherently equal in civic life despite their differences. Women especially appreciate the new social norm. They occupy 27% of government jobs while 39% of school students are girls, a sharp contrast to life under the Taliban in the 1990s.

The country remains highly dependent on the U.S.-led international donor community. And its neighbors meddle in ways that hinder democracy. Yet the best answer to these challenges lies in Afghans steadily, if fitfully, gaining trust in their institutions by exercising a right to vote.

Negotiations with the Taliban will fare better the longer that group keeps seeing Afghans brave threats and line up for hours to cast ballots. Voting in Afghanistan is a sign of triumph over fear.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to The Afghan way to a deal with the Taliban
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today