It may not be a time for Saigon for US forces, however, an imminent agreement with the Taliban that paves the way for the gradual withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan is no less ignominious for Washington. It may not be a surrender document, but it is not a declaration of victory for the most powerful military power on earth.
Read: United States and the Taliban on & # 39; threshold & # 39; of the agreement: Afghan envoy from the USA UU.
After fighting for almost 18 years, Americans seem desperate to end a war that is impossible to win in a region often described as the "graveyard of empires." Even if the United States believes it has not lost the war, it has not won it either. But will the agreement between the United States and the Taliban bring peace to a country devastated and fragmented by four decades of conflict?
In what could be called a remarkable turn of irony, US officials sat for more than a year at the table to negotiate peace with the very insurgent leaders that the United States once declared terrorists and tried to annihilate. The presence in the negotiations of Mullah Baradar, the second in command of the Taliban jailed for nine years by the Pakistani government at the request of the United States, made the agreement possible. Among the Taliban negotiating team there were also four former Guantanamo inmates. The ban on traveling over them has just been lifted.
As expected, the Taliban see the agreement on the withdrawal of foreign forces, which has been their main demand, as a victory. Although it must still be approved by the Kabul government, the agreement would allow 5,000 US soldiers to leave the country in five months. The deadline for the withdrawal of the rest of the foreign troops would depend on the Taliban's security guarantees, including the promise that the country will not become a safe haven for terrorist groups. According to a report, the withdrawal of troops could be completed in 16 months, provided the Taliban keep their promise.
It is still unclear in what kind of political configuration the Taliban would be willing to work.
Kabul's consent to the agreement could open a path for direct negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan officials on the country's political future. But that would be the most difficult part of the Afghan peace process. The Ghani government was completely marginalized while the Americans negotiated directly with the Taliban. The Taliban leaders still have no news that they would be willing to talk to the Kabul government now about the future political configuration.
For many Afghans, the prospect of the return of the Taliban government, no matter how exaggerated the fear, is disconcerting. To alleviate the concerns, the chief negotiator of the United States, Zalmay Khalilzad, assured Afghan leaders that, as part of the agreement, the United States would reserve the right to help Afghan forces in case of being attacked by the Taliban.
Interestingly, the Taliban have not yet defined their political agenda, which increases the sense of confusion. There has been some indication that the conservative Islamist movement would be willing to work within a pluralistic political system. However, it is not clear whether the group will participate in the elections.
In their interaction with various Afghan factions and delegations, Taliban leaders have offered assurances that they recognize women's rights and will not oppose women's education, but that has not helped eliminate concerns about the return of the Taliban to their Old customs after the withdrawal of foreigners. cash.
Surely the Taliban political leadership seems more moderate and flexible in its views. But it is not clear if the commanders leading the fighting could also change. There is also the question of the modalities of participation of the Taliban in the future political power structure of Afghanistan.
It will also be important to see the Taliban's position in the next presidential elections later this month. The campaign has remained lukewarm, as most candidates believe that polls could be delayed due to peace negotiations. It seems unlikely that the Taliban will participate in the elections even after an agreement.
The situation has become more complex because the Taliban have extended their control and influence over a large part of the country. In addition, they have never stopped fighting while negotiating with the Americans.
Hours after Khalilzad informed the Afghan government about the agreement, the Taliban carried out a devastating suicide bomb attack in a high security zone that houses several international organizations in Kabul, killing more than a dozen people.
Meanwhile, the progress of the Taliban forces in several Afghan provinces has also intensified. The insurgents launched assaults on two cities in northern Afghanistan in two days, which seemed a clear attempt to increase their influence at the negotiating table.
More alarming is the escalation of terrorist attacks by the militant group of the Islamic State through which it is sending a clear message that the spoiler could play in any peace agreement. Last month, the terrorist group that has a significant presence in parts of Afghanistan carried out a suicide bomb attack at a wedding celebration in Kabul, killing more than 60 people.
It was one of the most horrific attacks in Afghanistan claimed by the group since it established a foothold in the eastern part of the country. US officials hope that the level of violence can be reduced once the agreement is concluded.
The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will also have a great impact on regional geopolitics. The strategic location of the country has historically made it vulnerable to the participation of external powers and power battles.
There is still a long way to go before peace can return to the war-torn country. The decades of conflict that have taken a heavy toll on the lives of millions of Afghans and the forged destruction cannot easily end even if the two sides reach an agreement. The complete withdrawal of foreign troops may have their own complications. The long war has left the country more divided. With their victories on the battlefield and the expansion of territorial control, the insurgents have certainly gained an advantage as the end of the Afghan game approaches.
The writer is author and journalist.
Posted in Dawn, September 4, 2019