On February 29th, the US and Taliban signed a peace deal, in the presence of leaders from Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
In spite of claims by the US as presenting it as something that has been the aim for a while, it is simply a capitulation to the Taliban, and simply Washington admitting that the 19-year-long war is unwinnable.
The deal has four main points:
- a timeline of 14 months for the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan;
- a Taliban guarantee that Afghan soil will not be used as a launchpad that would threaten the security of the US;
- the launch of intra-Afghan negotiations by March 10th
- and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
In a statement, the Taliban said it had reached an agreement “about the termination of occupation of Afghanistan”.
“The accord about the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and never intervening in its affairs in the future is undoubtedly a great achievement,” it added.
Mohammed Naeem, a Taliban representative in Doha, described the agreement as “a step forward”.
“With this deal comes the end of war in Afghanistan,” he said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Taliban to honour its commitments.
“I know there will be a temptation to declare victory, but victory for Afghans will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper,” he said at the Doha ceremony.
Just before the agreement was signed, a joint statement released by the US and the Afghan government said the US and NATO troops would withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months.
About 14,000 US troops and approximately 17,000 troops from 39 NATO allies and partner countries are stationed in Afghanistan in a non-combatant role.
“The United States will reduce the number of US military forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 and implement other commitments in the US-Taliban agreement within 135 days of the announcement of this joint declaration and the US-Taliban agreement,” the joint statement said.
It added that the Afghan government will engage with the United Nations Security Council “to remove Taliban members from sanctions list by May 29”.
The Afghan government also will release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security forces held by the Taliban.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to America’s sons and daughters who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and to the many thousands who served over the past nearly 19 years,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement celebrating the deal.
“The only responsible way to end the war in Afghanistan is through a negotiated political settlement. Today is a reflection of the hard work of our Nation’s military, the U.S. Department of State, intelligence professionals, and our valued partners,” he added. “The United States is committed to the Afghan people, and to ensuring that Afghanistan never becomes a safe haven for terrorists to threaten our homeland and our Allies.”
The deal will start by the US reducing its troop presence to approximately 8,600 during the first 135 days after the deal was concluded.
In Kabul, Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg signed a joint declaration with the Afghan government, represented by President Ashraf Ghani.
Afghan government has not agreed to release Taliban prisoners
Despite the landmark deal, Ashraf Ghani said that his government had not agreed to the clause of releasing Taliban prisoners and the prisoner swaps.
“The government of Afghanistan has made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners,” President Ghani told reporters.
Ghani said: “It is not in the authority of the United States to decide, they are only a facilitator”.
This is not a new problem, as the Taliban have long said that it refused to negotiate with the Afghan government as it sees it as a “puppet” of the US, and Kabul is now attempting to show that it, in fact, chooses its own way.
In conclusion, are two statements, quite showing of the conclusion of the peace deal, the first one by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:
“This agreement will mean nothing, and today’s good feelings will not last, if we don’t take concrete actions on commitments and promises that have been made,” Pompeo said. “I know there will be a temptation to declare victory. But victory — victory for Afghans — will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper.”
In contrast, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, Taliban negotiator, said the following:
“On the eve of today’s signing ceremony of the agreement with the US, the Taliban announced that they had already won. This is Victory Day. The victory came with the help of God.”
The fact that the US, whose military budget ($748 billion a year) exceeds Afghanistan’s total GDP ($18 billion a year) by 41 times, is forced to negotiate a peace with the Taliban, enough to understand who then lost and with what score.