Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 25th, 2021

A Hasty Troop Pullout Will Not Be a Risky Gambling?

The intra-Afghan dialogue ongoing in the Qatari capital Doha makes national and international headlines. Afghan negotiating team has vowed to defend public and government values and reflect public aspirations. The team talked optimistically about international support to the negotiations.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump reiterated troop withdrawal from Afghanistan saying that all US troops could be home by Christmas, which created concerns in the public air, but the Taliban said it would be the right decision on the basis of the US-Taliban peace agreement. The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, “President Trump has announced in a tweet that he will withdraw all his troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The Islamic Emirate welcomes this announcement and considers the move a very positive step in the implementation of the agreement between the Islamic Emirate and the United States.” However, some US media outlets warmed that a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan could jeopardize the US-Taliban deal and its main objective of ending two decades of conflict in the country.
Trump’s stress on troop pullout, regardless of the fruition of futility of the talks, will be highly concerning. It is believed that the Taliban fighters will be emboldened and their leadership would interpret it as their own victory. Reiterating troop pullout indicates that Trump focuses on his presidential campaign regardless of the facts that whether or not intra-Afghan talks lead to peace. Afghans will be apprehensive about this strategy. As a president, Trump has to push for the fruition of intra-Afghan talks and urge regional and global stakeholders to put their weight behind the ongoing talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. If US troops withdraw from Afghanistan despite the escalated militancy, two decades of US treasure and blood as well as sacrifices made by Afghan soldiers and civilians are likely to be in vain. In such a case, Trump will not be a “problem solver” as he called himself in 2017 while explaining his strategy about Afghanistan and Asia.
It is said that the ongoing talks in Doha have been Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, and apart from the behind-closed-doors nudging and pushing, all regional and international parties to the conflict have so far been hands-off. An Afghan-owned dialogue is valuable, but regional and global stakeholders have to be ready for the support so that the talks do not reach stalemate. In other words, if the negotiating sides reach deadlock, there always needs to be a third party – including regional and global actors – to broker the deadlock. With this in mind, the role of regional and international stakeholders should not be underestimated.
One of the main issues in the ongoing talks is that the Taliban insist the talks should be seen as a continuation of the Doha Agreement signed between the group and the US in February. It is not acceptable to Afghan people at all for few main reasons: First, the Afghan government was not a party to deal and it was marginalized from the US-Taliban negotiations. Second, the US-Taliban agreement could neither lead to reduction of violence nor declaration of ceasefire. Third, it does not reflect the demands of Afghan people. Fourth, it was mainly about issues between the US and the Taliban. If the Taliban wanted to have trilateral deal, it had to include the Afghan government in the talks. Now persisting on this agreement makes no sense for the people of Afghanistan.
The intra-Afghan dialogue will be highly inclusive and all issues – constitutional principles, human rights, women’s rights and freedoms, democracy, two-decade achievements, power-sharing, future political structure – will be discussed in the negotiations. The issues essential for Afghan state and nation are not discussed in the US-Taliban agreement, and carries no significance for Afghanistan since it had no tangible result for Afghans.
Overall, the Taliban should stop insisting on their deal with the United States. Afghans have their own representatives around the table so that the two sides sign a new agreement on the basis of Afghanistan’s conditions and Afghans’ demands.
Meanwhile, a hasty troop pullout is likely to leave Afghanistan in the lurch. Trump has to consider the conditions and stop reiterating troop pullout. He should understand that a hasty troop withdrawal will be gambling Afghanistan, which may have a highly critical consequence for Afghanistan. In short, Afghan people will not accept an agreement that compromises their rights and freedoms or gains and relative liberties achieved within the last two decades. Afghans have urged the government negotiating team not to disregard their red-line. Gambling Afghanistan is not acceptable at all.