The long-suffering Afghan people have finally something to be optimistic about: a deal. After nearly two decades of war, the United States and the Taliban have signed an agreement to end the US troop presence in Afghanistan and clear the path for intra-Afghan talks which is expected to lead to lasting peace. But this is Afghanistan. Too many hopes and expectations have been dashed in the past.
The deal is between the United States and the Taliban — not the Afghan government, which has continued to view the agreement with some suspicion. The accord opens the door for a complicated but essential path forward: talks between the Taliban and the government over future power-sharing. That’s where the deal will face its toughest challenge. Already, it has hit one snag: Afghanistan’s president on Sunday said that he will not free thousands of Taliban prisoners ahead of talks set for next week, as was agreed in the US-Taliban agreement. This won’t be the last hurdle either.
The Taliban should remember the words of US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, who said that Washington would not hesitate to nullify the agreement if the group reneges on its commitments.
Both sides have to go the extra mile to ensure the success of the deal. It is important that the Taliban take their case to the Afghan people and the government, who continue to see — with good reason — the agreement as something that has more to do with American domestic policies in an election year than with peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban should fulfil their pledges: ending the mindless violence that has destroyed so many Afghan lives, respecting the rights and freedom of women that were denied during the Taliban rule in the late 1990s, and allowing no terrorist group to use Afghan soil to plan and mount attacks abroad.
Many Afghans take a dim view of this deal, fearing that it amounts to a surrender to the Taliban, who have in fact claimed the agreement as a victory. But the Taliban should remember the words of US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, who said that Washington would not hesitate to nullify the agreement if the group reneges on its commitments.
We are truly in uncharted territory here. No one is quite sure how the political process will unfold. Will Washington force the Kabul government to make the Taliban a partner in government? Or will the Taliban reinvent itself as a political party and contest elections? Whatever the case, anything that takes the cause of peace forward and brings stability to Afghanistan must be welcomed.