After 20 years of war, 18 months of negotiations, and a week of “reduction in violence” efforts, the US and the Taliban have signed an agreement that could potentially result in the complete removal of US troops from Afghanistan and mark the end of the longest war in US history. The agreement was signed in Doha, Qatar by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban Chief Negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and lays out a 14-month agreement calling for a peaceful, but conditional drawdown of forces in the area for both the US and coalition partners.
The US invaded Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States by al Qaeda, a terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden. US President George W. Bush issued an ultimatum to the Taliban demanding a handover of bin Laden and any associated terrorists as well as grant the US full access to terrorist training camps for inspection. The Taliban declined the extradition request without evidence of bin Laden’s involvement and ignored demands to shut down terrorist bases. After negotiations failed, the US invaded Afghanistan, unseating the Taliban, driving bin Laden into hiding in Pakistan, and installing an interim administration in the country.
US forces have maintained a presence in Afghanistan in the years since 9/11, with the Taliban persistently attacking civilians in the country and targeting US and Afghani military forces, and the US spending more than $1 trillion on fighting and rebuilding the country. President Donald Trump has sought an end to the conflict in order to keep a State of the Union promise to finish America’s “endless wars.” Critics of the withdrawal state that US withdrawal will only cause the Taliban to once again overwhelm the government and revert the country to a militarized Islamic extremist state. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was clear that if the terms of the agreement were not met, that the United States could cancel the agreement at any time and return in force to Afghanistan.
The agreement is comprised of four parts, summarized as follows:
- The Taliban and the Afghani government will ensure and enforce that the soil of Afghanistan will not be used by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies.
- Guarantees and mechanisms for a timeline for the removal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan.
- After satisfying guarantees for both of the above, a mechanism to allow peaceful negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
- A permanent ceasefire and ending of hostilities and negotiation of a political roadmap for Afghanistan.
Most supporters of the deal, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Senator Lindsey Graham, and President Trump are cautiously optimistic about the deal, being careful to point out that while it provides a path to peacefully withdraw US troops from the nation, it could easily fall apart should the Taliban decide to resume violent acts or harbor known terrorist activities on Afghan soil.