Alwaght- On Saturday, representatives from the US and the Taliban insurgent group signed a landmark deal in Doha, Qatar.
The two sides have been negotiating for 18 months to reach a peace deal according to which all American forces should leave Afghanistan in the next 14 months. According to the deal, a new stage of pro-peace efforts would be launched, aimed at drawing a thaw between the militant group and the Afghan government.
The Saturday agreement focused on four major cases:
1. Taliban agreed to give guarantees that it would not use Afghanistan soil against the US and allied countries’ security.
2. The US will announce a timetable for full withdrawal of its and the NATO forces within 14 months.
3. Arranging negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban in March
4. Seeking a comprehensive ceasefire through intra-Afghan talk
The US has reportedly agreed to cut its forces operating in Afghanistan to 8,600 from 13,000 within 135 days. The rest will leave Afghanistan in nearly 10 months
The agreement also contains promises to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in the Afghanistan government’s jails. The Taliban on the opposite side has promised to release some 1,000 prisoners it holds.
However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that his government had not agreed to a clause set out in the deal. "The government of Afghanistan has made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners," Ghani told reporters in Kabul on Sunday, a day after the accord was signed.
The US said that as the Kabul-Taliban talks launch, it will practically mull lifting sanctions on the Taliban leaders. By August 27, all of the sanctions on the insurgent group’s members will be lifted, Washington has promised under the agreement.
The second part of the agreement is dedicated to the way the Taliban plan to cut off their relations to terrorist groups active inside Afghanistan and outside it.
And the third part says that the US will push to get approval for the accord from the other members of the United Nations Security Council.
Signing agreement in a pessimistic atmosphere
What was conspicuous regarding the deal was the pessimism overshadowing the event. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who traveled to Doha to attend the event in comments said that “the chapter of American history on the Taliban is written in blood” and stressed that while the path ahead would be difficult, the deal represented "the best opportunity for peace in a generation.” He added that at the moment he had a sense similar to that in 9/11 attacks.
On the other side, the head of the Taliban office in Doha Shir Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai said that the day of agreement with the US echoed the days of British and then Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. “This is a victory for Afghanistan,” he noted. He added that the agreement with Washington is the start of the end of the occupation of Afghanistan.
The tone of the two signatories showed that despite the peace deal inking, they are not yet freed from pessimism against each other. Perhaps the Taliban will continue its anti-American policies, though it agreed not to attack the US security and interests in the country.
The accord between the US and the Taliban, at the same time, bears two significant points:
1. The US defeat in Afghanistan
The deal was inked 18 years after the US invaded Afghanistan in an anti-Taliban campaign that saw the toppling of the group’s government in Kabul. To be precise, the war was waged against Afghanistan to eradicate the Taliban in the Central Asian nation. But not only the Americans did not reach this goal but also they sat with the militant group and signed a peace deal with it.
Main reason behind US defeat in the face of Taliban and being forced to ink a peace agreement with the group it struggled to obliterate is more related to the remarkably high costs of the two-decade war than any other thing.
Despite 18 years of war in Afghanistan, the Taliban just over the past few months seized a large portion of the territories. Afghanistan, despite a US promise of stability and democracy, remains origin to one of the world’s biggest migration waves. Although the living conditions saw relative enhancement over the past two-decades and education chances, for example, grew bigger, all of this advancement was superficial and based on a shaky ground lacking infrastructural basis that could make it sustainable. So, the US military presence in Afghanistan has not yielded genuine growth and development after all these years.
For the US, the costs of war have been so high. Add to this at least 2,400 American soldiers killed in the war, which was a very high casualties rate. Over the past 18 years, some 38,000 Afghan civilians were killed, drawing pubic discontentment with the US record in Afghanistan. The discontentment is visible inside Afghanistan and the US. One of Trump’s election campaign premises was withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the war.
The war has been heavy on the US taxpayers. The Pentagon claims that since the beginning of the war in 2001, the US spent about $680 billion on the campaign. These high human and financial costs push the US leaders to seek a face-saving peace deal to end the war against Taliban.
2. US strategic position in Central Asia undermined
The possible US pullout of Afghanistan that is a Taliban condition in the agreement will weaken the American position in the region. This is something even the Americans are aware of, but they may find no other way other than leaving Afghanistan.
By the Afghanistan campaign, the US was hopeful to set up a sturdy hurdle in the face of the Chinese influence in the region and at the same time have an eye on the anti-American Iran-Iraq-Syria camp. But the withdrawal will cut an essential part of its power to maneuver in the region and this cannot be denied.
Moreover, by the US exit, Russia will get wider ground to play its growing role in Central Asia. All these demonstrate one thing in common: The US role and ground in West and Central Asia will be impaired, at a time when China on the other side of the game is deepening its influence in these regions.