US-Taliban peace deal
After 18 months of negotiations, the US-Taliban signed the troop withdrawal deal (US-Taliban peace deal) in Doha on February 29 in the presence of representatives from 30 countries and international organisations, signalling the end of the 18-year old war in the country.
The troop withdrawal agreement was signed by the US special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad and Mullah Ghani Baradar, the co-founder of the Taliban and head of Taliban’s Doha office, after successful completion of a week-long reduction in violence period which was announced on February 22.
Key takeaways of the deal –
The major takeaways from the troop withdrawal agreement include –
- Firstly, the commitment given by the Taliban to prevent any group or individual including al-Qaeda from using the Afghan territory to carry out attacks against the US and its allies.
- Secondly, it stipulates a gradual withdrawal of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in two phases. In the first phase, within 135 days of signing the agreement, the US will reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan to 8,600, and proportionally bring down the level of NATO troops as well. In the second phase, conditional on the fulfilment of counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban, the US and NATO allies will completely withdraw their troops from all the five military bases in Afghanistan within the next 14 months.
- Thirdly, it indicates that the intra-Afghan negotiations will begin from 10 March 2020. Further, as a part of the confidence-building measure, the US is committed to expediting the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and 1,000 prisoners from the other side before the beginning of the intra-Afghan dialogue.
- Fourthly, with the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, the US will start the process of removing the Taliban members from UN sanction list by May 29, 2020; and from the US sanction list by August 27, 2020.
- Fifthly, it states that a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be an item on the agenda of intra-Afghan negotiations. On the issue of the ceasefire, President Ghani has expressed his hope that the ongoing reduction in violence will eventually culminate into a comprehensive ceasefire in the country.
- The contentious timeline set by the deal for troop withdrawal, the release of 5000 Taliban prisoners, and removing of Taliban members from the UN and the US sanction list, if followed, will weaken the position of the Afghan government vis-à-vis the Taliban in the upcoming intra-Afghan negotiations which are due to begin in Oslo from March 10.
- The Doha deal signed between the US and the Taliban will embolden the extremist and terrorist organisations across the globe. It sends a very wrong message to such organisations that they can fight against the world’s strongest army and yet win.
- The agreement clearly states that the US and allied forces will completely withdraw from the country within 14 months from the announcement of the troop withdrawal deal. What it indicates is that the US security cover is available to the Afghan government only for the next 14 months within which it has to reach an understanding with the Taliban on all the contentious issues.
- The uneven and premature release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the beginning of intra-Afghan negotiations have the potential of threatening the already fragile security situation in the country. It makes the situation more precarious when the US and NATO forces are already going to reduce their troop strength by 5,000 and 2,000 respectively in the next 135 days.
- By hastily removing all kinds of pressure from the Taliban including the already placed sanctions, the US is removing all the incentives for the armed group to negotiate fairly with the Afghan delegation in the reconciliation process. It would have been more appropriate if the removal of sanctions was made conditional on certain progress achieved in the intra-Afghan negotiations.
Source – VIF India
QUESTION – Discuss the implications of US-Taliban peace deal on the future of Afghanistan.