For the first time since their 12-year war began, the Taliban and United States have agreed to sit down together and negotiate a peaceful end to the war in Afghanistan. Both sides announced on Tuesday that they are planning to hold meetings in Doha, Qatar, for what the U.S. is calling talks for "peace and reconciliation." The news comes on the very same day that NATO forces fully turned over military security in the country to the new Afghanistan government. Reuters reports that the peace talks will begin on Thursday.
The U.S. seems to have to given up on a request that the Taliban formally reject al Qaeda, a key sticking point in previous negotiations. Instead, the Taliban will agree to "oppose the use of Afghan soil to threaten other countries," an indirect acknowledgment of international terrorism — and the reason the U.S. invaded in the first place. According to The Guardian's reporting team of Dan Roberts, Spencer Ackerman, and Emma Graham-Harrison, the formal rejection of the al-Qaeda terrorist network is now a "negotiation aim" than a precondition. Essentially: Getting the Taliban to reject al Qaeda isn't off the table and is more goal than formal command, but at least this will get them talking to each other.
And this is the first time that the insurgency movement has ever participated in negotiations and diplomatic talks to end the conflict, though as The New York Times's Alissa Rubin and Matthew Rosenberg explain those negotiations are likely to be very long and very messy. You don't just brush a decade years of horrific violence and even older grudges and ill feeling (on both sides) under the table. Even though the U.S. is officially leaving, the Afghanistan government will forever be seen as their ally, if not their puppet, and bringing those two sides together will be the only hope of a peaceful country.