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What the Afghan peace agreement means | Opinion – analysis

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On Saturday, February 29, an agreement was signed between the United States (US) and the Taliban in Doha. Widely welcomed as a “peace agreement”, it will be claimed by the president of the United States, Donald Trump, as further evidence of his amazing ability to reach an agreement. But although the agreement may well mark the end of the US war in Afghanistan, if the conflict in Afghanistan really ends it remains an open question.

The negotiations began in September 2018 with the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to start direct talks with the Taliban. It marked a reversal of Trump’s policy for 2017, which was based on breaking the military stalemate in Afghanistan by authorizing 5,000 additional soldiers, giving US forces a freer hand to persecute the Taliban, warn Pakistan and strengthen capacities Afghan As it was soon clear that the policy was not working and the Taliban insurgency could not be defeated while enjoying safe havens and sanctuaries, the United States changed course and sought Pakistan’s help to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

While the United States argued that the Doha talks covered four issues: cessation of hostilities, cutting ties with terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, an intra-Afghan peace dialogue and, finally, the withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban made it clear that his priority was last number He rejected the idea of ​​a ceasefire and any conversation with the Afghan government, describing it as a puppet regime, devoid of legitimacy. The Taliban provided some guarantees on the second issue, but focused on a firm date for the withdrawal of US troops.

An agreement was ready to be signed on September 8, with a Taliban delegation scheduled to travel to Camp David, but stalled due to the death of an American soldier in a car bomb attack. Trump also wanted to avoid the negative view of welcoming a Taliban delegation to Camp David during the week that marks the anniversary of the September 11 attack.

In a month, the conversations were revived. The United States demanded a ceasefire for a month as a sign of the Taliban’s commitment, but the Taliban refused. The Taliban considered that a ceasefire for too long would make it difficult for them to regroup their fighters once they returned to their villages. Finally, the United States settled for a “significant reduction in violence” for a week. The one-week period began in the early hours of February 22, setting the stage for the Doha firm.

The agreement provides a schedule to reduce US troops from 14,000 to 8,600, within 135 days, and the start of intra-Afghan peace talks. It is not clear whether there is a date for the complete withdrawal of US troops or to conclude the intra-Afghan dialogue, or how long the truce will last. What is clear is that the US war in Afghanistan will come to an end, allowing Trump to fulfill his promise to take the soldiers home in his year of re-election.

About 50 years ago, the United States followed a similar strategy in Vietnam. President Richard Nixon had taken over in 1969, when the presence of US troops in Vietnam was more than half a million. It was clear that a military solution was not possible. During his secret visit to Beijing in July 1971, Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, told Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai that the United States would accept a complete withdrawal of troops in exchange for Hanoi to release the prisoners of war (prisoners of war) of the United States and a ceasefire for “A decent interval, say 18 months or more, before a communist takeover in Vietnam.” He assured Zhou that if the Saigon government was overthrown after “a decent interval,” the United States would not intervene. Neither the American public nor the Vietnamese from the south were aware of this exchange.

And that’s exactly how it developed. Nixon visited China in February 1972, describing it as a visit to achieve “lasting peace in the world,” and won his re-election generously in November 1972, promising that “peace was near.” In January 1973, the Paris Peace Agreement was signed, ending the participation and direct withdrawal of the US military, the release of prisoners of war, the ceasefire and a reunification by peaceful means. Large-scale fighting broke out before the end of 1973. South Vietnam lost another 80,000 soldiers until April 30, 1975 when Saigon finally fell. The United States did not intervene since its war had ended more than two years before. Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. Nixon resigned in 1974, facing a political trial in the Watergate scandal.

Many things have changed since then, but you still can’t see that EE. UU. Lose the war in a year of re-election, so the withdrawal of the US. UU. It needs to be repackaged as a peace process for Afghanistan.

The problem is that nobody really knows what the Taliban want and reconciling a system based on the emirate and the shariat with the existing constitution is not easy. How would the Taliban fighters demobilize? How would an amnesty and reintegration package be prepared and who pays? Will an early withdrawal from the United States encourage the Taliban to improve their negotiating position on the battlefield? Are the great powers only “facilitators” or are they collectively prepared to act as “guarantors”?

Addressing these questions is necessary for a good agreement, but if the search is only for “a decent interval,” the Taliban, who have waited two decades, can also expect “a decent interval.”

Rakesh Sood is a former diplomat and currently distinguished fellow of the Observer Research Foundation.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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