On February 29, 2020, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghanistan and the Taliban co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed a peace agreement in Doha the capital city of Qatar. The provisions of the agreement include the withdrawal of all American and NATO forces from Afghanistan within 14 months, Taliban will prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any terrorist group or individual against the security of the United States of America and its allies, intra-Afghan negotiations, and permanent and a comprehensive ceasefire will be an item on intra-Afghan talk. The agreement between the United State and the Taliban also committed the instant release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners by the government of Afghanistan and 1,000 prisoners of government by Taliban before 10 March 2020 simultaneous with the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations and the rest of the prisoners will be released in the course of three months and the United States agreed to a gradual reduction of its forces from 13,000 to 8,600.
The government of Afghanistan, which was not a party to the US-Taliban agreement, is vehemently sceptical about the deal, and Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani strongly rejected the release of 5,000 captured Taliban fighters as a precondition of intra-Afghan negotiations on 1st March. However, he stated that everything is negotiable including the release of prisoners during the intra-Afghan negotiations. “The people of Afghanistan need to believe that we have gone from war to peace, and not that the agreement will be either a Trojan Horse or the beginning of a much worse phase of the conflict,” said President Ghani to CNN. The next day, Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesperson of the Taliban tweeted that the intra-Afghan dialogue would not go ahead unless the prisoners were released.
Meanwhile, the Kabul dispute between Ghani and Abdullah on the final results of the 2019 presidential election is another obstacle in the peace talks. After the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan announced Ashraf Ghani as the elected President of Afghanistan, Abdullah rejected the results and declared himself as the president of Afghanistan and called for the formation of a parallel government and he even appointed governors to some northern provinces which demonstrate a lack of integration among the Afghan leaders in Kabul.
The Taliban leaders have ordered their forces to launch their invasions on Afghan troops after a weeklong reduction of violence and signature of the agreement with the USA On Tuesday, March 3. President Ghani in Nangarhar province once again said addressing the Taliban that the killing of your Afghan brother is a crime. “You have made peace with the foreigners, so what does your jihad mean now?” Ghani asked. But the Taliban committed themselves to the deal with the United States, which was a beginning to the end of the longest US war in history, not the government of Afghanistan which is still not recognized by the Taliban.
The US president, Donald Trump confirmed that he spoke to Mullah Baradar. He called it a “very good talk” and added that from now onwards, Taliban should fight the ISIS and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Whereas, John Bolton the previous national security advisor of Trump’s administration called the peace deal “an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population”. The conservatives in both Democrats and Republicans parties in the USA criticised the agreement and said that it could turn Afghanistan once again into a sanctuary for the terrorists.
In the US-Taliban agreement, many issues regarding the weapons Taliban have, the future political system of Afghanistan, the new constitution of Afghanistan, and the women’s rights including the right to education, freedom of speech, and political participation have not been negotiated by both sides. However, the American leaders said that these issues should be negotiated in intra-Afghan talk.
President Trump made it clear that he wants to terminate the war in Afghanistan and bring American soldiers back home which he promised in his 2016 presidential campaign and he wants to use this in the upcoming US elections. However, he further claimed that if the Taliban violate the agreement, they will come back to Afghanistan with overwhelming forces. Meanwhile, Abbas Stanikzai, the chief negotiator of the Taliban said: “there is no doubt we have won the war that is why America is signing a peace deal with us”.
At the regional level, two main actors are India and Pakistan who played at two different ends in Afghanistan. While India in last 19 years has invested 3 billion US dollars in Afghanistan in order to develop infrastructures, education and business, Pakistan has been providing safe havens to the Taliban and their leaders through which they aimed to establish a pro-Pakistani government in Afghanistan.
(Nazir Ahmad Razzaqi, from Afghanistan, is a postgraduate student of International Relations and Area Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.)
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own