Afghans welcome Biden review of US-Taliban deal to end war
KABUL, Afghanistan — Senior Afghan officials have praised the Biden administration’s decision to review a U.S.-Taliban deal calling for all foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May.
Critics of the deal say stronger mechanisms should be in place to guarantee the Taliban are living up to commitments, including that territory under their control is not used by terrorists to target the U.S. and its allies.
Relentless Taliban attacks following the February agreement — despite repeated calls for a cease-fire by U.S. and Afghan government officials — have added to doubts over whether the insurgents are serious about peace.
“The agreement so far did not deliver a desired goal of ending Taliban’s violence and bringing a cease-fire desired by the Afghans,” Deputy Interior Minister Sediq Sediqqi said in a tweet Saturday in response to news of the review. “The Taliban did not live up to its commitments.”
Abdullah Khinjani, Afghanistan’s acting minister of state for peace, also hoped a reexamination of the deal would help quell bloodshed.
“It’s expected the review will lead to the demand of the Afghan people, which is an immediate end to the violence and bringing permanent peace to the country,” Khinjani said in a video statement the same day.
President Joe Biden’s team intends to examine whether the Taliban are meeting promises to “cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and stakeholders,” a White House statement released Friday said.
The new administration also supports protecting gains made by Afghan women, girls and minority groups over the past two decades, the White House added.
The statement followed a telephone conversation between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib on Friday. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Biden’s pick for Secretary of State Antony Blinken have previously said they, too, would like to review the U.S.-Taliban deal.
“Mr. Sullivan affirmed that the partnership with the government of Afghanistan and [Afghan security forces] remain a priority and a key to U.S. national security objectives,” Mohib tweeted after the conversation. “We agreed to work toward a permanent cease-fire and a just and durable peace.”
The Taliban made a verbal agreement last year to reduce violence throughout Afghanistan, according to several U.S. military officials, though this is not stipulated in the text of the U.S.-Taliban deal that was made public. In order for all international troops to withdraw by May, the deal says peace talks must start and that the Taliban must meet vague counterterrorism assurances.
Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in September after months of delay, but little progress has been made. Both sides have been waiting to gauge how the new administration would handle the war.
Donald Trump was a vocal critic of the conflict and before leaving office reduced the number of American troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 - the lowest figures since the first months of fighting.
In an interview with CBS News last year, Biden said he supported keeping “several thousand” American troops in the country to fight threats by al-Qaida and the local Islamic State affiliate. But the Taliban are likely to reject any foreign presence beyond May and the group could resume attacks against U.S. forces if they stay past that point.
Since the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed, no American has died in combat in Afghanistan.
“The important thing right now is putting an end to the invasion,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Stars and Stripes last week. “We don’t want anyone to violate a single issue that the agreement contains. It is important that the agreement is fully implemented.”Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @pwwellman