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The Afghan Peace Agreement and Its Problems

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On February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar the United States and the Afghan Taliban signed a peace agreement designed to end the long war in Afghanistan. The agreement contains largely the same conditions that had been agreed upon in September 2019 but which was scuttled by President Trump. Essentially, this agreement calls for the removal of United States and Coalition forces from Afghanistan in exchange for the promise that the Taliban would not allow terrorist groups to operate on Afghan soil. However, the agreement is premised on several assumptions that will make its success problematic. The agreement assumes a functioning Afghan government in Kabul with which to negotiate. The recent Afghan presidential election, rather than resolving who is in charge, has in fact muddied the waters. The failed presidential election took place last September, but the vote counting process was so confused and contested that the winner was not announced until February 18, 2020, almost five months after the election took place. The flawed and contentious election has resulted in a contested and split government in Kabul, creating a stalemate regarding who is in charge and making the implementation of the next step in the peace agreement problematic. The result may be that with a weak, or split, government in Kabul, the Taliban will be in a stronger position to dictate terms of an agreement over the future of Afghanistan favorable to their point of view.

But the Taliban has its own leadership problems. The team negotiating the peace agreement in Doha does not necessarily speak for the Taliban commanders in the field, who may not be willing, or able, to give up the fight and lay down their arms. This leaves the possibility of continued fighting even after a deal in Kabul is reached.

The Peace Agreement

The agreement, officially titled “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”, is barely over 3 pages long and written in three languages; Dari, Pashtu, and English. It has two parts; the Taliban agree that “ Afghan soil will not be used against the security of the United States and its allies” and the United States agrees to the withdrawal all foreign forces from Afghanistan. The signing of the agreement was proceeded by a 7 day “reduction in violence”, a term used instead of a “ceasefire”, a term the Taliban objected to, in part because a “ceasefire” suggested an end of hostilities to which the Taliban were not ready to commit.

Specifically, the agreement states that the United States and the Coalition forces will withdraw all military personnel, including both military and “non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel” within fourteen months following the signing of the agreement. The agreement further specifies that the United States forces in Afghanistan be reduced to 8,600 within the first 135 days after the signing of the agreement and that the United States and the Coalition will withdraw all forces from 5 military bases, also within the first 135 days after the agreement is signed. In addition, the United States and the Coalition forces must, according to the agreement, vacate all military bases and withdraw the remaining military personnel within nine and a half months after the signing of the agreement, which is by the middle of November 2020. This total reduction in United States and Coalition forces is conditioned on the........

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