Click here to read US-Taliban Peace Accord 2020 – Beacon Of Hope Or Saga Of Violence? (Part 1)

Snapshot of US-Taliban relations

The US-Afghanistan relations can be traced back to 1921 during the days of World War II when both countries were on good terms. It deteriorated and became visibly rusty after the 1998 Taliban attack on US embassies.

In the aftermath of these attacks, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1267 to create a committee for imposing sanctions on two prominent Afghan terrorist groups – Al-Qaeda and Taliban. However, the Taliban didn’t hold back and retaliated with the infamous attacks on the World Trade Centre, after which President George W. Bush vowed to strike Osama bin Laden down and declared a war against terrorism.

Thus, the US Military, with support from the British, began air strikes and bombings on Al-Qaeda, eventually leading to a declaration of victory over the terrorist outfit. To fill the void in governance, on November 14, 2001 the UNSC passed Resolution 1378 and established a transnational administration in Afghanistan, which was followed by the surrender of Talibani leader Mullah Omar, marking the apparent beginning of the end for Taliban.

Later on October 29, 2004, Osama bin Laden, who was on the run, taunted the Bush administration through a videotaped message, taking sole responsibility of for the 9/11 attacks. By 2007, in a joint operation by Afghanistan, NATO and the US, Mullah Dadullah, Talibani military commander was killed and on May 1, 2011, US forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and opened the way to end the war in Afghanistan.

Since then, US and Taliban have engaged in multiple peace talks marked by bloodshed and numerous ups and downs. They finally reached a consensus on 29 February, 2020, surrendering to a bilateral peace accord and ending the eighteen-year long war in Afghanistan.

Dynamics of the Peace Accord

The US and NATO allies have agreed to withdraw all troops within fourteen months, if the militants uphold their end of the bargain and abide by the terms and conditions of the Accord, restraining from all acts of violence. Under the agreement, the militants have also agreed to discontinue support to extremist terrorist groups such as the Al-Qaeda in areas controlled by them in Afghanistan.

However, the bigger challenge will be negotiating a peace deal between the Islamist fundamentalist group and the Afghan Government.

Terms and Conditions

After nine long rounds of discussions, the negotiators agreed to –Firstly, a ceasefire. All violent activities in the State are to be called off.

Secondly, the withdrawal of foreign forces. The US agreed to recall a majority of its troops within 135 days and retain only 8,600. If Taliban follows through with its commitment, US promised to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan within a period of fourteen months.

Thirdly, intra-Afghan Negotiations. Taliban has always negated peace talks directly with the American government and stepped back from their standpoint. However, it has now shown interest in indulging in further strengthening the peace process.

Fourthly, counter-terrorism assurances. In the peace negotiations between two parties, Taliban agreed not to indulge in any terrorist or violent activity threatening the United Nations Peace and Security norms and undergo a peaceful living.

Moreover, the US Government has repeatedly stressed on the protection of women’s rights within the State and asked to do away with traditional practices of harassment, abuse, and other human rights violations against women, who are seen as a minority in Afghanistan and have suffered years of atrocities at the hands of radical Islam.

An interesting part of the deal is that it provides for an extra-ordinary prisoner-swap, wherein around 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 security force prisoners will be exchanged.  The US agreed to lift sanctions that were due on Taliban, only if they continue to hold on to the terms of the Peace Accord.

Challenges to the peace process

Despite resorting to the Peace Deal, there exist numerous issues which remain to be worked out, including power-sharing and arms control. Moreover, Taliban have grown into a strong global power in the past eighteen years and has within its control a total of sixty thousand fighters who continues to attack numerous districts under its control, including Kabul and Afghan security bases.

Taliban have not imposed any sanction on the illegal drug trade, further deteriorating the peace process by continuing to receive millions of dollars from it. Informally, they have argued that in comparison to US, Taliban has agreed only to a few provisions, compliance of which remains doubtful.

It is almost impossible to believe that the Taliban would break with Al-Qaeda at all. The ongoing violence, especially against innocent civilians and the Afghan government, negates the positive commitment of Taliban to the Accord. In such an environment, the entire US–Taliban peace talks have been called into question by its critics.

Where does the Peace Accord lead both the nations is a question for the next part.