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US-Taliban Deal: Can foes be friends?

Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha, Qatar, February 2020.

The United States of America, which time and again proved by its policies, actions and obviously ‘diplomacy’, that it can switch any time. Over the years the United States, always has been alleged to have instigated riots, mob attacks and revolution for their own interest against those who are not working in the United States’ favour or interest, let it be supporting Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Anti- Russian movements in Pro-Russian countries or be it goading insurgency in Afghanistan. Though this ‘sweet and sour’ relation has finally decided to stabilize their relations and to make Afghanistan a better nation. But to know about it’s ‘consular’ deal, first, we should learn about Afghanistan and the relations of the US and Taliban over the years. Afghanistan, which got its name from the word ‘Afghan’, which means ‘Land of Pashtuns’, is often considered as the graveyard of many empires, just because over the course of their regime, different rulers have failed significantly to pacify this territory due to the presence of a variety of tribes and not surprisingly all insurgent to each other. Afghanistan has an enduring history, so let us look at the formation of ‘till now unfortunate’ nation. After defeating the British in third British- Afghan War, Afghanistan emerged victorious and established itself as an independent nation. Amir Amanullah Khan, a popular leader of Afghanistan, that time, was concerned by the underdevelopment of the country and started socioeconomic reforms. In 1933, Zahir Shah became the king and brought stability to the country and continued to rule for the next 40 years. The ties of Afghanistan and Soviet Union started strengthening back in 1953, when pro-soviet general and cousin of the king, Mohammed Daoud Khan, became the Prime Minister of Afghanistan and sought help from the communist state for economic and military assistance. The ‘ties’ finally got ‘stamped’ when the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev agreed to help Afghanistan. Secretly in 1965, the Afghan Communist Party (ACP) was formed, significant leaders were Noor Mohammed Taraki and Babrak Karmal. In 1973, PM Khan overthrew the king in a military coup; Khan’s party, People’s Democratic Party came to power and established firm ties with the USSR. Things started to change in 1978 when Amanullah Khan got killed in the communist coup and ACP came to power, Noor Mohammed and Babrak Taraki as President and deputy prime minister respectively. They claimed themselves independent from the influence of the Soviet Union and clearly stated that the country will be run on Islamic principles. Taraki signed a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union. In the countryside, conservative Islamic and ethnic leaders initiated an armed movement against the Soviet-backed government and for the same cause guerrilla group Mujahadeen was formed in June, the same year.

1998 US Embassies in Africa Bombing by Al-Qaeda.

Till now you all might be thinking where is the United States, well until 1979, the US was a silent observer of the situation of Afghanistan. But in 1979, US ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs was killed. The United States stops all the aid given to Afghanistan by them. President Taraki killed in a face-off with the supporters of Hafizullah Amin, another prominent leader of ACP. In the same year, on Dec 24, USSR invaded Afghanistan to support faltering communist regime, Amin and his supporters were executed on Dec 27. Babrak Karmal formed a USSR-backed government. Massive riots and protests broke out against this ‘tyrannical’ regime and in 1980’s rebel Mujahadeens united against soviet invaders and the Afghan army. US was looking for an opportunity to turn things in their favour, especially in a country where USSR was ‘initially’ in a good position. To reduce the influence of USSR and to overthrow them, US started inciting rebel forces of Mujahideen. The United States took control of rural areas while the USSR, of urban areas of the country. The mass mobilisation of civilians started. Mujahideen was highly promoted and by 1986, they were receiving arms from the United States, Britain and China via Pakistan. In 1988, Osama bin Laden and 15 other Islamists formed a group by the name of ‘Al-Qaida’ to fight against any superpower which was a hindrance in making Afghanistan an ‘Islamic State’, obviously which included the United States of America. And we very well know that the US never entertains any threat to its security and the situation worsened after the bombing of US embassies in Africa by Al Qaeda in 1998. President Clinton ordered a cruise missile attack on training camps of Al Qaeda but the attack missed its leaders. Osama bin Laden was labelled as an international terrorist, the US continuously put efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice but the Taliban denied to extradite him! On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda led hijackers hijacked civil planes and crashed them into the World Trade Centre and other sites of great importance.

9/11 attacks were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States.

“The best thing a person can take into war is the reason why.” This is exactly what happened with the US, they got the best reason to avenge themselves on Al Qaeda, knowingly or unknowingly turning Afghanistan into a warzone. In 2002, they made an interim- government under the leadership of Hamid Karzai, who was considered to be a ‘puppet’ of the US. Ever since then till signing the peace deal, many places were bombed and attacked by the US, utterly draining the aspirations of the Afghan citizens. To restore their faith, avoid loss of money and bloodshed and also for their own personal interest, the US and Taliban regime decided to sign a peace deal.
According to this deal, US and Taliban both agreed on four points; firstly, they agreed on implementing cease-fire to reduce blood-shed and stated that cease-fire will be of utter importance and a prominent part of intra-Afghan Deal. Secondly, withdrawal of US and allied troops from the land of Afghanistan, in which the US promised to reduce its number of troops from 12000 to 8600 within 135 days and if Taliban complies with the deal, all foreign troops will leave Afghanistan within 14 months. Though, experts warned that pulling out troops too quickly might destabilize the condition. Thirdly, after much efforts, the Taliban agreed to talk with the Afghan government in March 2020 for their internal matters. Throughout the negotiation, the Taliban denied talking directly with the incumbent government, calling it ‘American puppet’. But after a few days, deputy leader of the Taliban Haqqani indicated to resolve the internal disagreements. Fourth, counterterrorism assurances; US asked to halt terrorist activities on the land of Afghanistan, and to stop providing safe haven to the terrorist groups and Taliban affirmed for the same. US officials also asserted on the rights of women which have been violated in Afghanistan for a long time. This treaty may seem to be the key to all problems prevailing but the reality is far from the truth. Much work has to be done in intra- Afghan negotiations where Taliban and the Afghan government will face each other to do away with their age-long differences, uniting Taliban forces with main mainstream society will be a great task and also, a weak and unstable government can cause complications. This pretty much gives us an idea that there is still a long way to go.

There are no right choices here, this is Afghanistan. Today you are our friends, tomorrow you will be our enemies. You will be cowards if you leave and enemies if you stay.

General Abdul Rashid Dostum, Warlord, Northern Alliances.

The United States did what it wanted to and, the Taliban thinks that’s in their favour. We can’t deny to any but the questions are many. I leave up to you to evaluate the ‘new diplomatic relations of two old foes’ who are trying to befriend each other.

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