US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the head of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, on Saturday morning signed a deal in Doha, Qatar, which could eventually bring peace to Afghanistan. The US and its allies committed to withdrawing all their military and civilian personnel from Afghanistan within 14 months. In the next 135 days, the US will reduce its presence to 8,600 troop, and clear its forces from five bases. The rest of the US forces will leave “within the remaining nine and a half months.”
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Saturday in Doha: “The United States and the Taliban have endured decades of hostility and mistrust. Previous talks have faltered. This effort only became real for the United States when the Taliban signaled interest in pursuing peace and ending their relationship with al-Qaida and other foreign terrorist groups.”
The Afghan government will release some 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, and the Taliban will release 1,000 Afghan POWs. Next month, the Afghan government will now begin negotiations with the Taliban on the role the Taliban would play in a future Afghanistan.
The United States invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, after the September 11 attacks. The Bush II administration demanded that the Taliban government, which ruled the country back then, extradite al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. When the Taliban refused, the Bush administration launched a war that ended up costing upwards of $2 trillion and more than 2,400 American lives, with dubious results.
Pulling out of Afghanistan may be President Donald Trump’s most important act to date.
Former Afghanistan ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef announced the peace deal was “a victory for Taliban.”
“In 2001, the war, which was imposed on Afghanistan and Taliban by the US with the help of its allies, was not chosen by the Afghan people or by Taliban,” Zaeef said. “I won’t say that Taliban has given up, but rather it was America who has given up. In 2006, America realized that the resistance in Afghanistan against them was getting stronger day by day. In 2008, the world and the US realized that Afghanistan can’t be ruled with power, but it needed a political solution. Following that, a political channel was established for talks with Taliban. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia and the UAE were asked to play their role in that. However, Taliban didn’t agree completely to everything America wanted.”
Zaeef concluded: “So Taliban didn’t change their thinking, America did.”
“Here’s our take on what steps by the Taliban will make this agreement a success,” Secretary Pompeo told reporters on Saturday. “First, keep your promises to cut ties with al-Qaida and other terrorists. Keep up the fight to defeat ISIS. Welcome the profound relief of all Afghan citizens – men and women, urban and rural – as a result of this past week’s massive reduction in violence and dedicate yourselves to continued reductions. It is this significant de-escalation of violence that will create the conditions for peace, and the absence of it, the conditions and cause for failure. All Afghans deserve to live and prosper without fear.”
Pompeo continued: “Sit down with the Afghan Government, other Afghan political leaders, and civil society, and start the difficult conversations on a political roadmap for your country. Exercise patience, even when there is frustration. Honor the rich diversity of your country and make room for all views. Afghan governments have failed because they weren’t sufficiently inclusive. The Afghan Government of 2020, and indeed the Afghanistan of 2020, is not the same as in 2001. Embrace the historic progress obtained for women and girls and build on it for the benefit of all Afghans. The future of Afghanistan ought to draw on the God-given potential of every single person.”
“If you take these steps, if you stay the course and remain committed to negotiations with the Afghan Government and other Afghan partners, we and the rest of the international community assembled here today stand ready to reciprocate,” Pompeo said.