It's Monday and time for your update on the Afghan Peace talks. We're in week two of the talks and things seem to be moving at the pace you would expect to reconcile a two-decade long war with key international players involved. This is going to take a while...
While the talks are going through their political processes, the Taliban is continuing to strengthen their positions around the nation with lots of money, drugs, and violence. They've been pretty successful with it to date, the roadblocks are minimal, and it's a proven recipe for success. Here's the brief updates on each of those endeavors and a bit of good news at the end.
Moral policing leads to "F your Music"
In the Northern Afghanistan province of Faryab, Taliban moral policing is preventing music from being played at events and weddings. This is apparently at the top of their priority list along with bans on beard shaving, fashion, and restricting employment and education for women.
However, they do allow a frame drum, the daf, to be played at weddings.
Illegal Gold Mines Raise over $500B annually for the Taliban
Considering the GDP of Afghanistan is $19.3B and the U.S. has $576M earmarked for Afghan foreign aid (83% military, 17% economic) this number should cause some headshakes.
In a recent article by Foreign Policy, Taliban is mining over $500B in Gold Annually from Afghanistan. Gandhara also reported on this as well. If wars are won with funding and dollars, it's a pretty simple conclusion to state they're going to continue mining for gold and render all the foreign assistance paid for by taxpayers useless.
Drugs Baby. Drugs.
In spite of the best efforts by the international community, opium production has been on the rise in Afghanistan since 2001. Prior to 2001, opium production was estimated at 180 tons, swelled to 3000 tons/year in the immediate years following the invasion and reports states that production reached over 8,000 tons/year by 2007. In 2017, the UN reported nearly 9000 tons of opium harvested. The reports are fuzzy after 2017, but the trend and worldwide opium epidemic would lead us to believe it just kept going up.
And who controls the Opium? The Taliban. With demand strong and production good, why stop making money on a high margin product. How else are they going to pay for the recruitment, training, arming, and sustainment of their low dollar fighters?
Violence Seems to Be King
Since the beginning of the Peace Talks in Doha, attacks and violence in Afghanistan ramped up to reach near record levels. While the rest of the world watches Politicians make statements behind pulpits, the Taliban is taking the country village by village. You can read some of the reports HERE and HERE.
What's Stalling the Peace Talks?
"An agreement has been made on 18 of the disputed points. Our contact groups today continued their discussions on the two remaining items. The perspectives (of both sides) have come closer; however, they have not reached a final agreement on these points so that we could move toward the agenda of the talks," said Attaullah Ludin, a member of the republic's negotiating team.
The two points that are outstanding:
1) The Taliban demand the recognition of the US-Taliban agreement as the "Mother Deal" underlying the Afghan peace negotiations
2) The Taliban wants the Hanafi Figh as the sole religious legal guideline for the talks.
We'd summarize for you, but it's better to just read the back and forth HERE (super short read)
And some Good News--Lady Genius
In spite a suicide bomber exploding a vest in a school with nearly 200 of her classmates, Shamsea Alizada, 18, aced the national placement exam for students attending university. She beat nearly 200,000 other students with her perfect score. You can read her story and triumph in a NY Times article HERE.