- Dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan delegation, including government officials, is scheduled to begin on March 10.
- U.S. President Donald Trump has promised in the 2016 election to end the "endless war" in the Middle East.
- Trump abruptly terminated negotiations in early September after an American soldier was killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul.
Only one day after the Taliban-U.S. Agreement was signed, there was controversy over the measures involved. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told reporters Sunday that it is not obliged to release the 5,000 Taliban prisoners mentioned in the agreement before internal negotiations in Afghanistan begin.
It may be part of the agreement process, but it is not a condition for starting the conversation. Dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan delegation, including government officials, is scheduled to begin on March 10.
Almost two decades after the US overthrew the Taliban, Afghanistan is in trouble. Afghan government forces and Americans cannot defeat the Taliban, which has about 60,000 people. Although Islamists control or exist in at least about half of the country, they are not strong enough to defeat government forces.
U.S. President Donald Trump had promised in the 2016 election to end the “endless war” in the Middle East. Barack Obama’s previous administration had considered negotiating with the Taliban but opposed it. The Trump administration kicked off talks in Doha in July 2018, led by former Afghan ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
The Taliban has a political office in the capital of Qatar. In the summer of 2019, the two parties signed an agreement. It mandated a partial evacuation of about 13,000 Americans. In return, the Taliban promised to stop hosting international terrorists, such as Al-Qaeda.
Trump abruptly terminated negotiations in early September after an American soldier was killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul. However, the dialogue resumed in subsequent months. The breakthrough was in February. The two parties signed the agreement on February 29, 2020.
The Afghanistan Peace Agreement contains United States commitments to withdraw about 13,000 military personnel in Afghanistan within 14 months. The remaining non-US NATO forces (about 6,700 at the end of 2019) will also be withdrawn. In the first 135 days after the signing, the United States will reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan, roughly equivalent to the number of troops at the end of the Obama presidency.
The withdrawal of most foreign troops performing advisory and training functions depends on the Taliban following their part of the deal not to harbor international terrorists. This is crucial for the United States, as the 9/11 attack was ordered from Afghanistan. The Taliban are committed to holding talks with the Afghan delegation, including government officials in Kabul, within ten days of signing.
Afghanistan negotiations will focus on future national order, separation of powers, and integration of insurgents. The Taliban will demand changes to the current political system to bring them more in line with their strict interpretation of Islam. This poses, among other things, risks for Afghan women, who were plagued by ancient religious rules during the Taliban’s reign from 1996 to 2001. A permanent ceasefire will also be on the agenda of the Afghanistan dialogue.
The Afghan government’s response was public. This is excluded from negotiations and there are many, if not all, losses. It is conceivable that President Ashraf Ghani, a political survivor, will attempt to block negotiations with the Taliban. But Ghani also relies on Americans, who will put pressure on him to continue negotiations.
It is also uncertain whether violence is actually declining steadily. The Taliban is not a single organization, and some factions have accused the leadership of making too many concessions to Americans. As a result, individual Taliban groups may continue to fight. On the government’s side, there can be no guarantee of a ceasefire. In some places, government forces rely on the help of local militias, which are difficult to control.