Peace In Afghanistan?

This week, the Trump administration began the latest round of negotiations with the Taliban intended to bring an end to the 17-year long war in Afghanistan. The work of the US envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was abruptly upended last month when President Trump announced the intended withdrawal of about half of the 14,000 US troops still serving there. A spectacular attack by the Taliban on Afghan intelligence services earlier this week that killed more than 100 people didn't help.



But then yesterday, after months of diplomacy, there was a potential breakthrough, when the Taliban promised not to support militant groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS operating within the country's borders – a concession the US sees as important for guaranteeing the country doesn't once again become a haven for attacks against its citizens.

Is the longest war in US history coming to an end? Here's a few thoughts from your Friday author and special contributor Adam Pourahmadi on why we should be skeptical:

  • The Taliban: The latest attack by the Taliban proves that it's bargaining from a position of growing strength. Its leaders say they won't negotiate with the Afghan government until the US agrees its troops will leave the country and releases Taliban prisoners.
  • The US: President Trump doesn't like negotiating with those who have leverage, and he's very unlikely to order a troop withdrawal while the Taliban is on the attack. Nor is he likely to accept a deal that depends heavily on the Taliban keeping its promise that Afghanistan won't once again become a terrorist training ground. Particularly since the Taliban wants post-war Afghanistan to become an Islamic Emirate.
  • The Afghan government: There will be no lasting peace in Afghanistan until there's a sustainable balance of power between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Today, government control extends to just 56 percent of the country's territory, down from 72 percent in 2005. For now, the government in Kabul is not part of the talks, and the withdrawal of US troops would only weaken its negotiating position.
  • The Wildcard: Finally, it's not clear that the Taliban in the room with Khalilzad and those who carried out the latest attack are on the same team. The Taliban has factions, and it's not clear who can speak for all of them.

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When you're in outer space, how do you stay motivated, when it's so lonely and pretty stressful too?

It's actually all about the mission. It sounds a little stereotypical to say that but the work is so important and there just isn't a do over. I mean, if you mess something up and you have to do it over, often you can do that. But there's just - you could be doing other really useful things. In the case of something like capturing a 16-ton supply ship with the robotic arm, there really isn't a do over and I find it's the mission but it's also kind of just saying, you know, "I have done everything I can to be ready." If you've done your best. No one can ask anything more than that. So you're ready.

Do you apply that to your work life now here on the ground?

I do that, you know, but often I'm like, I will say an example of TED here, I was a little worried about giving a talk and forgetting, or not saying everything I meant to say, and that was all wrapped up in me and then I went to the first night of talks here and I realized that everyone's here because they have something to say and people are here to listen. And that was the important mission, as opposed to me worrying about how I felt about it, and that got me through.



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Claire Wardle, Executive Director of First Draft joins Isabelle Roughol, Senior Editor-at-Large at LinkedIn for Media in 60 Seconds!

Why should we stop using the term "fake news"?

I refuse to use it to such an extent that I actually say "f*** news." And the reason is because it's just a completely useless term for describing the complexity of the situation. None of this really masquerades as news. It's content, social posts, videos and most of it isn't fake. Most of it is misleading or old content used out of context. So it's not helpful. And more importantly, it's used to attack a free and independent press - globally. Politicians, not just Trump, many politicians on the left and the right use it to attack a free, independent press. Any reporting that they don't like they dismiss. And actually, when journalists keep using it like, "Oh yeah, but that's what the audience uses." Well, they're using a weapon that's used to attack them. There are many words that we no longer use because we know that they're harmful. This is a harmful word and so we should just stop using it. We can say lies, rumors, conspiracies, propaganda. What is it that we're talking about? Because we don't need to use this phrase!