Progress of the US Taliban Peace Deal
Signing of peace deals between governments and militant anti government groups and formalizing of accords is always very complicated and time consuming process. This is more so when there is a high degree of bitterness in adversaries and lack of trust. The US and Taliban talks are further complicated by the fact that the main affected party on one side the Afghan government is not on the same table and the Taliban have structured the talks in such a way that the very legitimacy of Kabul has been questioned at this stage.
Under these circumstances the peace framework tends to be fragile and thus there was always the possibility that it could be at any time be disrupted by distrustful and numerous hostile actions even though recent reports revealed that the Taliban have agreed to reducing violence in seven major cities of the country for a week. The main agenda now should be an agreement to reduce violence.
A grim statement by the head of the United Nations in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto that the war in Afghanistan surpassed 100,000 civilian deaths in the past ten years alone from 2009 to the present should be a grim reminder of the urgency of a peace deal, the first stage being that between the US and the Taliban.
The Taliban is using coercion as a strategy for forcing American hands on the peace deal in which the most important factor for the anti-government forces is the pull out by the US troops from the country.
The death of 23 NATO troops of which 20 are Americans in 2019 is an indication of a targeted approach to raise the flag of unpopularity in the US population and thus leading the President to make a weak deal in which the rebels will have an advantage.
At the same time in the recent weeks the Afghan forces have also been targeted with a series of attacks particularly in the North which has resulted in heavy casualties – 18 soldiers in Balkh, 17 in Takhar, 14 in Jawzjan, 10 in Helmand and 8 in Faryab so far have been killed by the Taliban in the past ten days as per the Tolonews.
The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces have sustained the same and are fighting back but the overall advantage appears to be with the Taliban which may be shaping the next stage of the talks with the Afghan representatives from the Kabul government.
Meanwhile contours of a possible peace deal were recently revealed by the Associated Press (AP) on 29 December quoting anonymous sources within the Taliban saying that the ruling council of the group – in Pakistan – has agreed to a temporary ceasefire nationwide.
Ismael Khan, a former jihadi commander who was present in a meeting held between Khalilzad and former president, Hamid Karzai in Kabul, said about ceasefire suggestions. “We said if the Taliban do not agree with a durable ceasefire, they should be convinced to accept a three-month one to pave the ground for the peace process.” This would mean a limited ceasefire the current indications being a ten-day one in the cities which have seen maximum violence in the past.
Hopes of a peace deal had risen after members of the Taliban’s leadership met the group’s top leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada in the Pakistani city of Quetta
However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected media reports saying the ruling council of the group had agreed to a temporary ceasefire that would eventually open the way for signing a peace deal between the group and the United States.
“The reality of the situation is that the Islamic Emirate has no intention of declaring a ceasefire. The United States has asked for a reduction in the scale and intensity of violence and discussions being held by the Islamic Emirate are revolving solely around this specific issue.”
The release of 5,000 prisoners of Taliban is another condition in the peace agreement draft which is going to be soon signed between United States and Taliban.
United States ‘ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction [SIGAR] John F. Sopko has recommended funding reintegration only if a peace deal is inked with the Taliban that provides a framework for reintegrating ex-combatants, there is strong monitoring of the process and violence is dramatically reduced. US Congress has approved up to $15 million this year for logistical support for peace talks in Afghanistan as per Tolonews.
As and when the talks between the US and Taliban are through the next step will be intra Afghan talks “The Afghan government expects that the US-Taliban talks will cause a result soon,” said presidential spokesman Durrani Jawed Waziri. “The government of Afghanistan has made preparations and formed an effective, concise and capable team for talks with the Taliban and for ensuring a ceasefire.”
Taliban has also clearly stated that withdrawal of American forces will be the first step before intra Afghan negotiations. “Intra-Afghan negotiations will begin only after an agreement with America on the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan is signed,” Taliban spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen tweeted. The US has already disclosed plans for withdrawal of 4000 troops form the country but that is not likely to satisfy the anti government forces who had called for a total pullout leaving some at key bases which has been agreed to so far.
Meanwhile Afghanistan is awaiting final Presidential elections results which are likely only by February 2020 and if a second round run off is necessary may well go by the middle of the year.