The United States and the Taliban signed peace agreement on February 29 in the Qatar’s capital, Doha, after their teams held 10 rounds of negotiations for 18 months. The peace deal includes four general issues: (1) The Taliban group guarantees that terrorist networks will not use Afghanistan to wage attacks against the United States and its allies. (2) The United States and its allies will withdraw all their troops from the five bases in Afghanistan. (3) Talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban group will start as the deal says, “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will start intra-Afghan negotiations with Afghan sides on March 10, 2020”, which have been postponed. Before the start of the intra-Afghan talks, the Afghan government, based on the deal, should release five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Taliban. On its part, the Taliban will release one thousand (1,000) prisoners of the Afghan government. (4) A permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be discussed between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
the Afghan government and ordinary people are apprehensive about the US-Taliban peace agreement and do not welcome it for four reasons: First, the Afghan government is not mentioned in the deal as a “government” but as “other side” although Afghanistan held its final round of presidential election on 28 September 2019 and announced its result on 18 February 2020 declaring Mohammad Ashraf Ghani as the president, who secured 50.64 percent of the vote. Second, the United States could not persuade the Taliban to declare a comprehensive ceasefire, which the deal states it as an agenda in the intra-Afghan dialogue. Third, the issues of “women’s rights” and “freedoms” are not mentioned in the US-Taliban peace deal. Fourth, the Afghan government was sidelined and had no role in the US-Taliban agreement.
Political pundits and Afghans believe that the deal did not only not extract enough concessions from the Taliban but also gave the group a greater legitimacy.
Afghan politicians and ordinary people doubt the Taliban to honor their commitment and respect the gains achieved within almost two decades, including democratic principles, democratic constitution, and women’s rights and freedoms.
The deal should have stated that the Taliban group would respect the rights and freedoms of women, said Fawzia Koofi, a former parliamentarian and prominent women’s rights activist, who participated in informal meetings with the Taliban for two times in Moscow.
Koofi said that the US-Taliban deal had been a “start for another process” which would be prolonged and rocky. She said that issues like “republicanism” and “Islamic Emirate” and the fundamental rights of citizens would be very controversial in the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Afghans have their own preconditions for the Taliban to accept. President Ghani also backs the notion that “if the Taliban want to be part of an Afghan society, they need to change, and Afghan society needs to accept and adjust to integrate them.”
It is worth saying that the US-Taliban peace deal signed in Qatar has emboldened the Taliban group, which intends to restore their “Islamic Emirate” toppled by the US in 2001, but neither the Afghan government nor Washington would agree with the restoration of Emirate.
The intra-Afghan dialogue is most likely to be detailed and controversial since issues like the kind of system, democratic constitution, citizens’ rights and freedoms, comprehensive ceasefire, and power-sharing will be discussed.
Russia believes that the US troop pullout may create a security vacuum and has offered military assistance to Afghanistan for combating terrorism since there is lack of provision to leave a small US counterterrorism force in Afghanistan. It indicates that Moscow is eyeing military engagement in Afghanistan despite the fact that the former Soviet Union was defeated by Afghans, with the US and Pakistan’s supports, in 1980s.
Meanwhile, Pakistan fears the security role of India in Afghanistan.
Afghans, however, believe that Pakistan harbored the Taliban group and gave consultation to its negotiating team.
Generally, there are both hope and fear about the US-Taliban peace agreement as well as the intra-Afghan talks at national and international levels and the Taliban are viewed with doubt and mistrust.
The Taliban leadership declared three-day ceasefire on Eid, which generated optimism for the start of the intra-Afghan dialogue. The Kabul government, on its part, released a large number of the Taliban prisoners and vowed to continue so. Thus, there is a sense of greater hope for the start of the talks between Kabul and the Taliban outfit although the group intensified its attacks against the Ghani administration.