By Donovan Levine
On Feb. 29, a historic peace deal was signed between the United States and the Taliban. More directly, between U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar. This deal came with the hopes of this being at the farewell to another superpower occupying the Afghani region. The deal was made not long after Afghanistan celebrated the 31st anniversary of the departure of the last Soviet soldier leaving their territory.
The peace deal gives the U.S. a 14-month withdrawal period from Afghanistan and effectively withdraw 8,600 troops within the span of half a year. It is a strikingly similar decision to former President Barack Obama’s move to withdraw 10,000 troops from Taliban-occupied spaces in Afghanistan in 2011. However, Obama’s plan did not pan out, and actually amplified U.S. presence in Afghanistan, leaving 8,000+ troops stationed there before leaving office in 2016.
To make matters worse, President Donald Trump dropped a MOAB, a “Mother Of All Bombs” explosive, on eastern Afghanistan just months into his term, in an attempt to clear out the Taliban from the region.
Since then, a rather stalemate occupation has existed between the U.S. and Afghanistan that has likely damaged the infrastructure of the country irreparably and have a psychological impact on future Afghani generations for years to come. For a long time, the war on terror has been a war without winners.
Trump’s peace deal has received backlash on both sides. While it comes with the promise of this being the end of a two-decade-long conflict, it does have its parallels to President Obama’s decision to pull troops from Iraq, which immediately allowed the hostile takeover of the country by the late Abu al-Zarqawi’s ISIS group. Many, including former national security advisor John Bolton, have criticized this deal, calling it “an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population”.
Much of the criticism stems from the worry that this gives authority to the Taliban, and increases their leverage with negotiations with, for instance, the Afghan government.
“How can we expect the Taliban and the warlords to treat us as equals when the lead negotiators have refused to give us a seat at the table?” asked Mary Akrami, Sahar Halaimzai and Rahela Sidiqi, Afghan activists, in a column for USA Today.
According to TheHill, a rejected prisoner swap by the Afghan government with the Taliban has become the first major obstacle of his deal and is expected to be the first of many.
“There will be ups and downs, and we’ll stop and start,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. “That’s going to be the nature of this over the next days, weeks and months.”
The Pentagon sees this deal along with other peace deals made between Israel and Palestine, North and South Korea, and Rohingya incident as a means to allow the U.S. to focus more on China, as an economic and political threat (and more recently, a threat to public health), according to AP News.
The ongoing wars of Iraq and Afghanistan will likely have generational effects on both nations and the United States included, and it is uncertain if this peace deal will end the ensuing conflict.