Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Hasty and Unconditional Troop Pullout Likely to Result in Security Vacuum

Washington is going to review the US-Taliban Doha agreement. To view the agreement, the Taliban group has not honored the peace deal as it has not cut ties with al-Qaeda, not reduced violence or held “meaningful talks”. The Taliban do not have genuine intention in the talks, playing a foul game. The group’s supporters also seek their political interests in the dialogue and seem less likely to put pressure on it to declare ceasefire.
NATO believes that a hasty withdrawal, supported by Donald Trump, is likely to create a security vacuum and the troop pullout has to be condition-based. It will maintain its presence in Afghanistan to alleviate the looming threat.
The threat will continue if regional and global stakeholders do not play their role genuinely in the peace process. Pakistan, which has strong leverage on the Taliban leadership, claims that it played a constructive role in the process. Kabul and Islamabad had high-level exchanges in recent months, in which Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, vowed to back the intra-Afghan dialogue. As a result, a sense of optimism and trust emerged between the two sides and the blame game came to an end. 
To Kabul’s unmitigated chagrin, a ten-minute video clip shared on social media, on 22 December, showed Taliban’s head of Qatar-based political office Mullah Baradar speaking to a crowd in Karachi, Pakistan, including wounded fighters being treated there. In a rare admittance, Baradar confirmed that “all our leadership and elders are also based and operate from here, which is [evidence of] the support and value that Pakistan affords us.” He also praised the “sacrifices of you mujahedin” that had made it possible for “the world’s most arrogant power to sit [at the table] with us.” Pakistan did not deny the presence of Taliban leaders and rank and file on its soil as well as the treatment of their wounded fighters.
Meanwhile, Pakistan invited jihadi leaders, including leader of Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and leader of Hizbe-Wahdat Islami Karim Khalili, to discuss peace issues. Afghan lawmakers reacted against the invitation of jihadi leaders and said that Pakistan had possibly discussed interim government with them. That is to say, lawmakers said that the interim government plan was supported by Islamabad and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
In his recent remarks, President Ghani said that the Taliban should not have a safe haven in Pakistan either. He said, “One of the basic needs for peace in Afghanistan is that the Taliban should cut their ties with Pakistan. If they call themselves Afghans and want to be in Afghanistan; they should not have dual citizenships.” He added, “I urged PM of Pakistan to tell Taliban that there is no solution without a political settlement.”
Ghani has also criticized the interim government plan, emphasizing a democratic process for the power transfer. He said that he would transfer power to the Taliban if they were elected by the people in the elections.
It is believed that harboring Taliban members and hosting jihadi leaders will lead to trust deficit between Kabul and Islamabad and bilateral relations will sour.
Despite pledges made, Islamabad has not so far pressured the Taliban to reduce violence or declare ceasefire.
Ghani’s statements indicate that it will be in the interests of Pakistan to either put pressure on the Taliban leadership to declare a nationwide ceasefire so as to reach a peace agreement with the Afghan side or shut their leadership councils on its soil. It has to expel all Taliban members from its soil. Ghani also means that Islamabad has to discuss peace talks with high-level government officials instead of jihadi leaders and contribute to peace process through diplomatic channels. It is self-evident that the Taliban are fighting against the Afghan government and kill Afghan soldiers and civilians. With this in mind, no country has to harbor their members or create room for their leadership councils on their soil.
The conflict in Afghanistan has been the longest war in US history and the US-led NATO member countries invested “blood” and “treasure” in the country for about two decades. If the Biden administration follows Trump’s footsteps through supporting the hasty withdrawal plan, a security vacuum will emerge in Afghanistan, which will undo all investments in human rights, women’s rights and liberties, and democratic principles. With this in mind, Washington has to value the two decades of blood and treasure invested in the country and pursue sustainable peace in Afghanistan. It could be obtained through pressuring the Taliban leadership to honor US-Taliban Doha peace agreement, negotiate with the Afghan government with genuine intention, and putting pressure on their supporters to stop backing the Taliban and use their leverage on persuading them to accept the demand of Afghan people, mainly reduction in violence and declaration of ceasefire.