Afghanistan: Is peace with the Taliban possible?

We ask Abdullah Abdullah about US-Taliban peace talks and debate the so-called US war on drugs.

In this week’s UpFront, we ask Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah about peace talks with the Taliban, and the challenges facing his government which controls barely 55 percent of its own districts.

And in the Arena, we debate whether the United States’s so-called “war on drugs” has been a failure.

Abdullah Abdullah: The Taliban is ‘the obstacle’

Negotiators from the United States and the Taliban have now held several rounds of talks to discuss a possible peace deal in Afghanistan, but there is still no agreement on when foreign troops will withdraw from the country.

The role the Taliban will play after a possible peace deal has also not been defined, and the group is refusing to negotiate with the Afghan government, deeming it illegitimate.

Despite this, Chief Executive of Afghanistan and presidential hopeful Abdullah Abdullah says the Taliban can “absolutely” run in the 2019 elections, but only if they stop fighting and helping groups like al-Qaeda.

“If [the] Taliban give up fighting and violence and sever their links with the terrorist groups and turn themselves into a political entity and fight for their cause politically and join the political process, the people of Afghanistan will be ready to accept that,” he said.

Abdullah believes the Taliban is the obstacle to peace in Afghanistan and is responsible for prolonging the war.

When asked about a recent study that estimated that the Afghan government controls barely 55 percent of the country’s districts, Abdullah admitted it was a “serious challenge”.

“If they [the Taliban] want to continue the war forever, that’s their choice. If they want to come and sit and talk about peace, there is an opportunity,” he added.

This week’s headliner, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Has the US ‘war on drugs’ failed?

It has been five decades since former US President Richard Nixon declared a so-called “war on drugs”, one that is estimated to have cost more than $1trillion.

Despite the vast amount of money spent, the war is far from over. President Donald Trump now claims a wall on the border with Mexico will stop drugs from coming into the country. However, with the majority of drugs arriving via legal ports of entry, can the wall stop them?

The former head of the special operations division at the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Derek Maltz, admits it will not solve the crisis, but insists it will make a difference.

“The wall will actually help the border patrol and the experts to get a better handle on it,” says Maltz.

Sanho Tree, director of drug policy for the Institute for Policy Studies, says traffickers will always find ways to get drugs into the country.

He points out that Trump has backed down from his original plan for a solid concrete wall, instead suggesting a wall with slats.

“What’s the first countermeasure you’re going to do if you’re a drug trafficker? Three and a half inch wide packaging,” says Tree.

“When a dose of fentanyl is a couple of grains of sand, imagine how much of that you can push, literally hand through that wall,” he added.

In the Arena, Derek Maltz and Sanho Tree debate whether the so-called “war on drugs” has failed.

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