Syed Aamir Sharief Qadri
Enormous loss of life and property later, the long 18 years’ war in Afghanistan is (hopefully) nearing end. A peace deal has been signed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in presence of US secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in an opulent hall of a hotel in Doha, Qatar. The deal calls for the full withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan within 14 months.
Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said, “The Taliban had been trying to reach an agreement with the U.S. for a long time”. It is true that the Taliban were looking for peace but Trump seems to be in much greater hurry for a peace agreement. When in 2017 Trump was sworn in as the president of U.S.A., he vowed to recall troops from Afghanistan. Now, as presidential elections are near, Trump is in a hurry to fulfil that vow.
That is why, on 29 February, the preliminary agreement was signed between U.S. and Taliban which calls for the immediate reduction of U.S. troops to 8,600 within the first 135 days of the deal. NATO allies have also to reduce their forces proportionately. Further talks between the Afghan government, Taliban and the U.S. are likely to be held from March 10. Till the talks lead to a complete return of the NATO and U.S. troops, the immediate return of several thousand troops will benefit Trump in his re-election campaign.
Trump said in the White House that U.S. troops had been killing terrorists in Afghanistan “by the thousands” and now it was “time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban and it could be surrounding countries”. This statement is confusing. First, there is no mention who is the terrorist in Afghanistan? Second, Trump said that it is time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban? Third, he said it could be surrounding countries? Let me explain all these aspects of Trump’s statement.
By saying “terrorists in Afghanistan”, what Trump actually meant is not clear. Al-Qaeda, the primary enemy of U.S.A. in Afghanistan, was supported by Taliban either directly or indirectly. That is why U.S.A. declared war on Afghanistan. Since 2001, American forces killed a few thousand militants but a large number of them belonged to Taliban. So, the U.S. was much worried about the Islamist Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Coming to the next point, Trump said now it will be the Taliban that will wipe off terrorists from Afghanistan. How come it is possible for US-designated terrorists (Taliban) to free Afghanistan from terrorists? Why would Taliban kill its own people? I don’t get the point. First, the U.S. held Taliban responsible for supporting Al-Qaida and toppled the Taliban government from power in 2001 by declaring open war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Both Taliban and Al-Qaeda were declared as terrorists. Since then, the U.S. has installed puppet governments in Kabul from time to time. If Taliban was declared a terrorist group, then why the U.S.A. has signed a peace agreement with it?
Further, Trump said it could be surrounding countries that would now kill terrorists in Afghanistan. What is happening behind the curtains is unknown, but we may come to know of it in the near future. Is some new partner going to replace U.S.A. or was it just a slip of tongue that Trump made? If we analyse this statement carefully, it seems that the U.S. has lost its credibility in Afghanistan. The peace agreement cannot benefit U.S. much other than the safe return of its troops (both men and arms).
Trump said, “I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time.” He added, “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no one’s ever seen.” It is not language that should be used for someone you have just struck a peace deal with. Such kind of talk on the future of Afghanistan, of which the Taliban has been given primary responsibility, warns of future conflict. America’s coming back with all might is such a hollow statement. With two decades of warfare, with support of more than fifty countries, with sophisticated weapons and surveillance, the U.S. failed to bring Taliban to its knees. What might is the U.S. talking about now, after testing the most powerful non-nuclear bombs, latest drone technology, 5th generation jet planes, etc., in Afghanistan. The truth is that America attacked with all its might but failed to win. America is best with playing with words than with capability. We have seen this in the recent U.S.-Iran crisis, when president Trump changed his tone to ease tension.
People of Afghanistan hope for peace, but it already seems difficult for the Taliban to come to an agreement with the Afghan government. There is a great difference between Sharia law and democratic secular laws. I see this agreement leading to some secular laws being adjusted under a new Sharia Constitution of Afghanistan.
—The author can be reached at