Experts weigh in on what the US-Taliban peace deal means
The peace deal between the US and the Taliban marks a major step towards ending the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest conflict, which stretches nearly two decades.
Just a few weeks ago, Afghanistan marked the anniversary of the last Soviet soldier leaving the country. Over the weekend, the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban, where they decided that Washington and its NATO allies will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by late April 2021.
When these two events are juxtaposed, we find the beginning of the end of a tale that pans across decades.
"The biggest problem with the US' truce with the Taliban is that it negates the Afghan government. The entire deal is vulnerable to unravelling in future because the Taliban have not recognised the current government or the Constitution. With the US signing the peace deal, it has in a way abandoned Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban," adds Johny while speaking to Asiaville.
He says he can't predict the future, but if we take a peek in the history, we might be able to find some answers.
"When the US decided to attack the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 as part of their ‘War on Terror’, it toppled the Taliban quickly, but 17 years and massive expenditure later, the war has reached nowhere. It's an unsustainable war. But with this move US is almost pulling off a Vietnam here. Out of their desperation, they are almost feeding the Taliban's ultimate aim to capture power," says Johny.
A media copy of the deal signed today pic.twitter.com/hmEjV09ijV— J.p. Lawrence (@JpLawrence3) February 29, 2020
The pact is between the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban” and the US. The four-page pact was signed between Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political head of the Taliban on Saturday.
Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, the US government has spent $2 trillion on the conflict, in which 3,500 American and NATO coalition troops have been killed and tens of thousands of Afghans have died. Under the agreement, the US will gradually withdraw its 12,000 service members in exchange for a commitment by the militant group to neither aid nor harbour terrorists, and to exchange prisoners. The Taliban will also enter into talks with the US-backed Afghan government.
Johny also expressed concern over what will happen to the women and minority groups that were repressed under the Taliban leadership in the 1990s, but who have — with the advent of the US-backed government — begun to enjoy increased freedoms and rights, particularly because the group was not required to make a commitment to protect civil rights under the agreement.
"Though the Taliban don't acknowledge the Afghan government, the deal includes a requirement that the Taliban find lasting peace with the Afghan government in exchange for the full withdrawal of troops. So that can mean that there will be dialogue between the two," says Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Nandan Unnikrishnan.
Though Unnikrishnan agrees that the ultimate aim of the Taliban remains to capture political power, he sees the deal and the withdrawal as an extension of internal politics of the United States. "Given that there has been a growing belief in the US since Obama days that they are fighting some useless wars and that it was one of Trump's election promises, the withdrawal was a no-brainer."
Speaking on the effect of this pact on India, Unnikrishnan says: "It's definitely worrying for India. There is a perception that Pakistan has some control over some factions of the Taliban, and due to our geographical positioning, we might see more intrusions along the Kashmir border if the Taliban gain more power in Afghanistan."
He also stated that this might even be more worrying for India today as "the minority community is not particularly pleased with the government due to some of the policy decisions, and in the current context, radicalisation of the youth is not very hard to imagine if there is a push from across the border".