How America’s Back-and-Forths on Deal With Taliban Add Uncertainty to Afghan Peace Process

During the past few days there has been fighting in 200 areas in Afghanistan, Afghan English-language news channel Tolo News reported on 17 June, citing the increase in violence in the Central Asian nation.

The New York Times has linked the reported spike in clashes between the military wing of the Taliban*, an Islamist organisation, and Afghan government forces with the US and NATO’s withdrawal from the country.

The newspaper suggested that President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out the remaining American troops and international forces by 11 September 2021 had “emboldened the Taliban and called into question Afghanistan’s fate”. According to the NYT, “dozens of districts” have fallen into the hands of militants since the US and NATO forces started withdrawing from the region on 1 May 2021.

Biden’s Reversal of Trump’s Afghan Policy

Initially, the decision to depart from the Central Asian nation was made by President Donald Trump as part of the US peace deal with the political representatives of the Taliban.* The agreement was signed on 29 February 2020 in Doha with the aim of ending America’s longest war. Under the agreement, Washington vowed to complete a full withdrawal by 1 May 2021. In exchange the group, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, was obligated to cease military activities and engage in intra-Afghan talks with the country’s government.

However, Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential elections postponed the US withdrawal for several months, prompting concerns and ire among Taliban policy-makers. On 16 February, Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund released an open letter to the people of the United States of America calling upon the US to respect its commitments and withdraw from the region. He specifically signalled that “defending our land and people is our legitimate right”.

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