by Editor (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 1, Rajab, 1441)
The four-point agreement signed between the Taliban and the US in Doha, Qatar on February 29, 2020 was remarkable in more ways than one. If there is a single take-away from the agreement, it is that another superpower has had its nose rubbed in the dust by the rag-tag band of Afghan Taliban. It is a victory for Islam and Muslims. The dirt-poor Afghans, most of them living in the Stone Age, once again proved that Afghanistan is a graveyard of empires. From Alexander the Great to the British and Soviets, every empire has been humiliated in Afghanistan.
Whether the agreement holds or not—there are many spoilers both internal and external that would like to see it scuttled for their own ends—the fact is that a superpower was forced to sit down with the very people it had for 20 years denounced as “terrorists”. Regardless of one’s opinion of the Taliban and their policies, they showed their mettle on the battlefield and remained unbowed. Armed with Kalashnikovs and wearing courage on their sleeves, these dirt-poor people surviving on stale bread and brickish water, bested the world’s most heavily armed military power in the world. How come?
American hubris had got the better of them. They thought their huge army and a coalition of the willing armed with the most sophisticated hi-tech weapons—the US defence budget is $750 billion/year—would vanquish the Taliban in no time. Driving them out of Kabul was the easy part. Fighting them in the valleys and mountains of Afghanistan proved a lot more difficult. Even the BBC, mouthpiece of the British regime, admitted that in 2018, the Taliban controlled more than 70 percent of Afghanistan’s territory! So much for America’s hi-tech weapons.
Perhaps, the US chose February 29 deliberately since this date occurs once every four years. Washington hopes that the Afghans would not be able to celebrate the US surrender every year.
Be that as it may, the signing ceremony was witnessed by foreign ministers and diplomats of more than 50 countries. From the Taliban side, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar signed while the Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad signed on behalf of the US. American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well as Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were also present.
In another twist that the US may have thought is a victory for Washington turned out to be its humiliation. While the agreement mentions the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, it is immediately followed by the words that the United States does not recognise it “as a state and is known as the Taliban”. The Americans failed to realize that a small rebel group defeated it and forced it to the negotiating table.
It is clear that the Taliban had insisted on calling themselves “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”. Whether the US recognizes it “as a state” or not is irrelevant. The very mention of their official name in the text of the agreement is a huge victory for them. Equally important is the fact that America’s Nato allies and other mercenaries euphemistically called “private security contractors” are also included in the agreement and have to leave. Regardless of the spin the US regime, its NATO allies or their pliant media put on the outcome, they have been convincingly defeated.
Meanwhile, the US dispatched Secretary of Defence Mark Esper to Kabul to hold the hand of Ashraf Ghani, who only last month was declared the ‘winner’ in a fraudulent election held in September 2019. His chief rival Abdullah Abdullah cried foul and rejected the verdict insisting he was the winner. Who really won the election is a moot point now. They would both be out of job soon and may not even wish to stay in Afghanistan.
As per the agreement, the US has committed to withdrawing all its military forces, those of its allies and coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel within 14 months following announcement of the agreement.
In the first 135 days, the US will reduce the number of its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 and proportionally bring reduction in the number of its allies and coalition forces that currently number 16,000. Five military bases would be vacated completely.
All remaining forces from Afghanistan would be withdrawn within the remaining nine and a half months. All bases would be vacated completely leaving no foreign forces in the landlocked country. In other words, America would not be able to maintain its disruptive presence in the country. It is quite possible that the warlords in Washington may renege of their promises once the US election is over come November. This would come as no surprise. The Americans are notoriously unreliable and thoroughly dishonest. Didn’t Donald Trump tear up the multilateral agreement nuclear with Iran in May 2018?
The US pledged to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release 5,000 combat and political prisoners of the Taliban “as a confidence building measure with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides.” For their part, the Taliban would release 1,000 prisoners of the other side. This process will be completed by March 10, 2020, the day the intra-Afghan negotiations are to begin. All remaining prisoners will be released within three months. This may prove a sticking point since the US puppet in Kabul Ashraf Ghani is already balking at releasing Taliban prisoners. Should he fail to comply with the release of prisoners by March 10, as stipulated in the agreement, intra-Afghan dialogue would not take place.
The Taliban have agreed that their released prisoners will not pose a security threat to the US or its allies. Similarly, the Taliban have agreed to not allow Afghan territory to be used for terrorist activities by al-Qaida or any other group. The allegation that al-Qaida was involved in the 911 attacks has been challenged by many informed observers.
The US’ official version is full of holes, not least as to how Building No. 7 collapsed when no plane hit it. Even the collapse of the twin World Trade Centre Towers is illogical. How could two buildings collapse, pancake fashion, on their own footprint? Thousands of American architects and structural engineers have questioned the official version but have received no clear answers.
While the US has agreed to initiate an administrative review of current US sanctions and the rewards list against the Taliban, this is contingent upon the start of intra-Afghan dialogue. This is another sticking point. The intra-Afghan dialogue will start once the prisoners are released. If Ghani proves difficult, will the Americans twist his ears to comply? It will depend on how desperately Trump wants his troops out of Afghanistan. US sanctions against the Taliban are slated to be removed by August 27, 2020. The US has also pledged to work with other UN Security Council members to remove the Taliban from UN sanctions list by May 29, 2020.
The US has further pledged to work with other Security Council members for acceptance of this agreement as well as help with the reconstruction of Afghanistan. It should be stated that the US is largely responsible for the destruction of the dirt-poor country. The Taliban should demand reparations from the US. Making Uncle Sam pay would definitely hurt the greedy Americans.
It may be premature to slaughter a lamb—the traditional Afghan way of celebrating an agreement, they do not pop champagne bottles—there is hope for guarded optimism, not least because the US cannot defeat the Taliban militarily. There is no evidence that the Americans have raised glasses in the White House or elsewhere to celebrate the agreement. This itself is proof of their defeat!