by Zia Sarhadi
Beyond statements from Taliban representatives and US officials about a seven-day partial reduction in violence, there is no written agreement yet about the end of war in Afghanistan.
That agreement apparently will be signed after the seven-day period.
The Taliban’s partial truce appears to be a quid pro quo for partial withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
There are currently 13,000 American troops in Afghanistan. This number will be reduced by a quarter once the deal is signed.
The deal was reached on February 14, according to a report by the Associated Press, quoting senior US officials.
The agreement for a seven-day “reduction in violence” covers the entire country, including Afghan government forces, the Americans say.
They further said the Taliban had committed to a halt in roadside and suicide bombings as well as rocket attacks.
When asked about their reaction, a Taliban official said that tentatively February 29 was set for signing the agreement with the US.
Intra-Afghan talks were planned for March 10.
The Taliban official further said Germany and Norway have offered to host the talks between Afghan factions but no decision on the venue had yet been taken.
The Taliban official emphasized another point: agreement with the US would provide for not only a timetable for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces from Afghanistan but also the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the start of intra-Afghan talks.
Phrases like “seven-day truce”, “reduction in violence” etc. clearly indicate the Taliban do not trust the Americans. They have no reason to do so.
As recently as last September, US President Donald Trump abruptly cancelled talks with the Taliban when an agreement had already been reached.
Trump wanted a photo-op at Camp David before signing the agreement; the Taliban refused to oblige.
It was left to Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born US negotiator, to restart the talks. He had to urge Pakistan to intervene and convince the Taliban for talks.
Talks resumed in Doha, Qatar in November.
Trump demanded a ceasefire before he would sign an agreement. The Taliban refused.
They only agreed to a “reduction in violence” and for only “seven days”.
Trump is desperate to get US troops out of Afghanistan before presidential elections next November.
In 2016, he had campaigned on a pledge to withdraw US troops from wars in distant lands that were draining US resources.
He has failed to fulfill all such promises. Afghanistan may offer the only chance.
In any case, the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. Even US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has admitted as much.
“We’ve said all along that the best, if not the only, solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement…”
This is quite a change in tone from past US threats to teach the Taliban a lesson and never let them return to power in Afghanistan branding them as “terrorists”.
Now the self-proclaimed sole superpower has been reduced to agreeing to a “partial reduction in violence lasting seven days.”
And the people that have brought this about are lightly armed and live in the Stone Age!