- The US-Taliban deal
- Factors responsible for deal
- Criticism of the deal
- Questions raised by the deal
- Why India should be concerned?
- Way Forward
India’s World: US – Taliban Peace Pact & India
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US officials and Taliban representatives have signed a final peace deal after months of negotiations in Qatar’s capital to end the United States’s longest war, fought in Afghanistan. The agreement signed in Doha in the presence of leaders from Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, will pave the way for the United States to gradually withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
- The US invaded Afghanistan weeks after the September 2001 attacks by the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda group.
- More than 2,400 US troops have been killed during the conflict.
- About 12,000 are still stationed in the country. President Trump has promised to put an end to the conflict.
- US had demanded for a ceasefire before the final peace agreement was signed.
- The Taliban has ordered all its fighters to halt fighting and “refrain from attacks“.
- Mohammed Naeem, a Taliban representative in Doha, described the deal as “a step forward“.
The US-Taliban deal:
1. Troops withdrawal:
- The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously.
- And all troops will be out within 14 months — “all” would include “non-diplomatic civilian personnel” or “intelligence” personnel.
2. Taliban commitment:
- The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
- The pact is silent on other terrorist groups — such as anti-India groups Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed. As India, not being an US ally is not covered under this pact.
3. Sanctions removal:
- UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months (by May 29, 2020) and US sanctions by August 27, 2020.
- The sanctions will be out before much progress is expected in the intra-Afghan dialogue.
4. Prisoner release:
- The US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March 10 — which is when intra-Afghan negotiations are supposed to start, in Oslo.
- The joint declaration says the US will facilitate discussion with Taliban representatives on confidence building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides.
- Miller identified it as a “possible trouble spot” because the US-Taliban agreement and the joint declaration differ, and it is not clear whether the Ashraf Ghani-led government agrees with this “pretty big up-front concession to Taliban”.
- It has been identified as another potential “trouble spot”.
- The agreement states ceasefire will be simply “an item on the agenda” when intra-Afghan talks start, and indicates actual ceasefire will come with the “completion” of an Afghan political agreement.
Factors responsible for deal:
Through the withdrawal of US from the Afghanistan was an election promise of US president Donald Trump, the following factors are responsible for the deal:
- War Fatigue: Long drawn out inconclusive war which US along with NATO partners have been fighting since two decades. US had war fatigue due to the endless war since 2001.
- Financial Aspect: That brings the total cost – based on official data to $822bn since the war began in 2001, but it doesn’t include any spending in Pakistan, which the US uses as a base for Afghan-related operations.
- Huge war casualties: Since the war against the Taliban began in 2001, US forces have suffered more than 2,300 deaths and around 20,660 soldiers injured in action.
- Public pressure: The US citizens don’t want any more wars further and there is a huge pressure to disengage from wars.
- Political promise: It was the 2016 election promise of US president Donald Trump to draw a peace pact and bring US soldiers home.
Criticism of the deal:
1. Side-lining Afghan Government:
- The fundamental issue with the U.S.’s Taliban engagement is that it deliberately excluded the Afghan government because the insurgents do not see the government as legitimate rulers.
- By giving in to the Taliban’s demand, the U.S. has practically called into question the legitimacy of the government it backs.
2. Concessions to Taliban:
- Second, the U.S. has made several concessions to the Taliban in the agreement.
- The Taliban was not pressed enough to declare a ceasefire.
- Both sides settled for a seven-day reduction of violence period before signing the deal.
- The U.S., with some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, has committed to pull them out in a phased manner in return for the Taliban’s assurances that it would sever ties with other terrorist groups and start talks with the Kabul government.
- But the Taliban, whose rule is known for strict religious laws, banishing women from public life, shutting down schools and unleashing systemic discrimination on religious and ethnic minorities, has not made any promises on whether it would respect civil liberties or accept the Afghan Constitution.
- The Taliban got what it wanted — the withdrawal of foreign troops — without making any major concession.
3. Shifting the power to Taliban:
- Lastly, the U.S. withdrawal will invariably weaken the Kabul government, altering the balance of power both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.
- A weakened government will have to talk with a resurgent Taliban.
- The U.S., in a desperate bid to exit the Afghan war, has practically abandoned the Kabul government and millions of Afghans who do not support the Taliban’s violent, tribal Islamism, to the mercy of insurgents.
Questions raised by the deal:
The deal which has been hastened and has given various concessions to Taliban, raises the following questions affront:
- Will the deal actually bring out peace in Afghanistan and the surrounding regions?
- Who will represent the Afghanistan’s government? Will the real power be vested with the incumbent Ghani government or the government will be mere puppet at the hands of Taliban?
- Will Afghan National Army able to hold on the situation incase anything goes wrong?
- Will the deal phase out the role of US in the country or it will have some residual power or troops?
- Who will control the US military bases in Afghanistan?
Why should India be concerned?
- One, India has a major stake in the stability of Afghanistan, as it has invested considerable resources in the country’s development.
- Though there has not been formal contact with top Taliban leaders, the Indian mission has a fair amount of access to the Pashtun community throughout Afghanistan through community development projects of about $3 billion which include projects for education in the nation.
- The Indian infrastructure projects in Afghanistan include: Chabahar port, Salma dam, Delaram–Zaranj Highway etc.
- The projects like Chabahar port are of economic and strategic importance to India and definitely India will not want extremism in the nation to be a threat to these investments.
2. Security issues:
- Two, India has a major stake in the continuation in power of the present dispensation, which it considers a strategic asset regarding Pakistan.
- An increased political and military role for the Taliban and the expansion of its territorial control should be of great concern to India since the Taliban is widely believed to be supported from Islamabad.
- Further, India is skeptical that Pakistan will divert these Taliban terrorists from its western boundary to the eastern boundary and they will cause terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and Border region.
- As the grip of US is loosened, it is speculated that the power vacuum in the region will breed ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hakkani Network and other extremists group directly effecting the peace and stability of the region.
- Reduction of Troops from the country in phases.
- Keep the window open for further engagement with all the Afghan stakeholders especially Taliban.
- US and other stakeholders in the region like India, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia shouldhelp to sustain a politically stable Afghanistan government.
- Mediation of political dialogue between Afghan government and Taliban, since Taliban till date is reluctant to engage with the Afghanistan’s government.
- India should provide military aid and weapons to Afghanistan’s Army to contain terrorism and safeguard Indian investments in the country.
- India should continue infrastructural development in the nation and hold conversations with Taliban too, if situation escalates.
- The withdrawal of US forces has the probability of the creation of vacuum in the region and possibility of filling the void by terrorists and extremists. To ensure that regional security is maintained and Taliban does not dictate the nation, US and other stakeholders in the region like India, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia should come forward to aid Afghanistan to become politically stable for regional security and stability.