The Taliban have accused the United States of violating the peace deal, saying that the U.S. has used drones to attack civilians while calling out the Afghan government for failing to release the 5,000 Taliban prisoners languishing in prisons. They say that the peace deal is in danger of breaking.
The deal was hoped would end the war, which began shortly after the attacks on the United States on 9/11.
The U.S.-Taliban peace deal, which was negotiated in Qatar, specified that the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and a drawdown of U.S, forces in the country, would be tied to stipulations. The Taliban are claiming to have lived up to their part of the agreement by abiding by its stipulations: Namely, since they have limited attacks on government security forces to just rural outposts, have not carried out any attacks against the U.S. or other allied nations’ forces, and have not attacked large cities.
“We are asking the Americans to seriously comply with the contents of the agreement and to alert their allies to fully abide by the agreement,” the Taliban said in a statement that was published on social media.
However, the United States rejects the Taliban’s claims. Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, took to Twitter and posted a rebuttal: “USFOR-A (U.S. Forces Afghanistan) has upheld, and continues to uphold, the military terms of the U.S.-Taliban agreement; any assertion otherwise is baseless. USFOR-A has been clear — we will defend our [Afghan National Security Force] partners if attacked in compliance with the agreement.”
The Taliban complain, about the Afghan government dragging its feet over the release of the prisoners, have merit. American officials in Washington are frustrated with the Ghani government’s lack of response. The Taliban claim that the Ghani administration is using “indefensible arguments” in the endless delays in releasing the 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 government personnel. (The peace deal was agreed between the U.S and the Taliban — the Afghan government was not a party to it.)
As part of the peace agreement, the United States and its NATO allies have already begun to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in good faith; yet, the operational tempo for the withdrawal has been slowed due to the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the globe. The full withdrawal of American troops is expected to be completed in 14 months. However, the commander of U.S forces in Afghanistan has the authority to set the pace of the withdrawal, which besides being tied to the stipulations mentioned above, commits the Taliban to expel terrorist groups, especially the Islamic State, from the country.
Meanwhile, the Taliban and the central government in Kabul are supposed to be negotiating between themselves about the prisoner exchange and other issues. Thus far, there has been very little progress. And with the next step in the peace process in jeopardy because of Kabul stalling, President Trump has even threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid in an attempt to get the Afghan government moving.
But the Kabul government is appearing as a fractured, disjointed entity and is not in the position to be bargaining from a position of strength with the Taliban. The big question is who is ruling Afghanistan? President Ashraf Ghani is trying to appoint a new cabinet. At the same time, his opponent in the presidential election of last fall, Abdullah Abdullah, has declared himself president. Both held parallel “inauguration” ceremonies at the same palace in the capital Kabul.
Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission has stated that Ghani was the victor and the true president. However, Abdullah still claims that the election itself was filled with irregularities and fraud. Mediators, including former President Hamid Karzai, have accomplished little in trying to solve the mess.
As this political fiasco continues, the Taliban will no doubt attempt to place themselves in a more advantageous position in negotiating with the fractured government.