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

Biden Administration and Afghan Peace Process

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Biden Administration and Afghan Peace Process

As expected, Joe Biden, immediately after taking oath as the 46th president of the United States, sat to reverse many of the Trump administration s decisions. He seems quick to pursue the promises that made a significant part of his election campaign; moreover, some of the urgency is also related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which definitely requires speedy response by the new administration as the Trump administration had not given it required attention. However, there are some policies that were pursued during the Trump era and reversing them altogether or taking quick actions on them may not be as easy or beneficial for the Biden administration. Among such policies, the US s Afghan policy is a significant one; particularly, after a peace deal has been signed between the United States and Taliban .
As far as US-Taliban deal, signed in February last year, is concerned, Biden administration will most likely review the deal. Joe Biden s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has mentioned that the Biden administration will review the peace agreement with the Taliban. While talking to US Senate confirmation hearing, he mentioned : “We want to end this so-called forever war. We want to bring our forces home. We want to retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism, which is what brought us there in the first place We have to look carefully at what has actually been negotiated. I haven t been privy to it yet We must thoroughly assess the US-Taliban peace agreement, I still do not know the details of this agreement .” This clearly shows the intentions of the new US administration; and, it is also as per Joe Biden s campaign slogan of responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan. But the question is : Can this step lead to a responsible role of the US in Afghan peace process ?
Nevertheless, the decision of reviewing the US-Taliban deal has further been confirmed by the US National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan. Sullivan talked to Afghanistan s NSA, Hamdullah Mohib, last week and made clear the United States intention to review the US-Taliban deal, including to assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders .’ This is an important development since it can slow down fulfillment of the conditions set in the agreement, and can even affect the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan in May, 2021. It can also pressurize the Taliban to speed-up their side of commitments as per the deal. However, it is not something that was unexpected, considering, the level of difference of thought and action between the Trump and Biden administrations .
Nevertheless, more significant is the level of changes that might be suggested by the new administration. If there are considerable changes, that will definitely require the consent of the Taliban leadership as well, and, may even start another round of negotiation between Taliban and the United States, at a time when the second round of intra-Afghan talks is already going on in Doha, Qatar. Then, it is most likely that intra-Afghan talks will further be delayed before US-Taliban deal is revised. Though such a step may help the Biden administration proceed with the Afghan peace process as per their liking, it may bring an elongated period of misery for the innocent people of Afghanistan, who are giving their blood in the lingering fight
If Biden administration does not change the basic features of the deal and only emphasize that the Taliban should take tangible steps to prove that they are fulfilling their commitments, it may not derail the intra-Afghan talks. Such an approach can pressurize the Taliban to act on their promises, and, at the same time, encourage the negotiators in intra-Afghan talks to proceed with the second round, and may even help in reaching the cease-fire more quickly, which can help the suffering civilians in Afghanistan take a sigh of relief .
At the same time, it must not be forgotten that it is basically a comprehensive intra-Afghan talks that can ensure the other aspects of peace in Afghanistan that Biden administration emphasizes. For example, a statement by NSC spokesperson Emily Horne on Jake Sullivan s call with Hamdullah Mohib, says , “The National Security Advisors discussed the United States support for protecting the extraordinary gains made by Afghan women, girls, and minority groups as part of the peace process. Mr. Sullivan committed to consulting closely with the Government of Afghanistan, NATO allies, and regional partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, and secure future for Afghanistan .” Definitely, such an emphasis is necessary, but that can only happen through intra-Afghan talks, not through US-Taliban deal. Therefore, efforts should be made to make intra-Afghan talks more inclusive and participatory. The proper participation of minorities and women and civil society, and more involvement of the regional countries, can make the talks more conducive for a long-lasting peace process .
On the other hand, Taliban must also realize that it is not possible to take Afghanistan back to the type of government that they used to practice. They must respect the constitution of Afghanistan and must strive to see their position within Afghan political system as per the same. They cannot implement their will over the entire population of the country and must never pursue such an approach, because it is neither desirable nor achievable in the given context .

Sajjad Aasim is a PhD scholar in International Relations. He can be reached at sajjad.aasim@hotmail.co

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