DOHA, Qatar — For months, the Taliban has managed to both talk peace and wage war across Afghanistan.
The strategy appeared to appease the hard-liners within the militant group who want an outright military victory to end the 20-year conflict and moderate members of the movement who would accept a political solution.
But the new, aggressive U.S. push for a peace deal has brought the Taliban to an inevitable crossroads: Accepting a place in a power-sharing government, as proposed by the United States, would bring the group one step closer to its ultimate goal of retaking full control of the country and establishing an Islamic government — and yet any path to power that prevents Afghanistan from again being labeled a pariah state will require compromise at odds with the core beliefs of the militants’ rank and file.
A deadline looms. The Biden administration has until May 1 to withdraw troops from the country, under a U.S.-Taliban deal signed in February 2019, or negotiate a new arrangement. What the Taliban does could signal where the balance of power lies within the movement and what its vision is for Afghanistan’s future.
So far, Taliban leadership has said little publicly to reveal the specifics of what kind of government it would accept, beyond one ruled by Islamic law.
“The intra-Afghan dialogue is progressing. There is no doubt there are some difficulties along the way, but this is the agreed framework,”said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s senior political leader at a meeting in Moscow last week.