PICTURED: Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan. Khalilzad has been working with the Taliban now for several months at the behest of President Trump. Photo credit CC Gage Skidmore.
September 2nd, 2019. After months of negotiations that saw over 4,000 killed on all sides of the longest war in American history, Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan under the Bush Jr. administration and special envoy under President Trump, reported that a peace deal has been agreed upon in principle, and awaits presidential authorization.
The specifics of the deal are not public knowledge yet, but USA Today reports that in exchange for the withdrawal of at least 5,000 American soldiers, the Taliban will reduce the levels of violence in the country and make sure that al-Qaeda and ISIS cannot maintain a presence in any of the provinces they control.
“We have agreed that if the conditions proceed according to the agreement, we will leave within 135 days five bases in which we are present now,” the Afghan-born US envoy said in Dari according to Yahoo news.
No information is yet available on what will happen with the 8,000 or so troops that would be left. Last week Trump said that America would maintain a permanent fortification within the country, likely at least within the Bagram Air Force base in the south of the country.
A Thorough and Sustainable Peace
Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan has been sent a copy of the draft agreement.
“The efforts of the US and other partners will yield results when the Taliban enters direct negotiations with the Afghan government,” Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters.
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said in a statement that he too had been briefed and assured of “a thorough and sustainable peace in Afghanistan”.
Ghani is currently selecting individuals to lead a delegation for intra-Afghan talks about a post-United States Afghanistan with the Taliban in Norway in the coming weeks.
For all the hard work of Khalilzad, this could be almost as difficult if not more so due to the fact that the Taliban has never recognized Ghani’s government as anything more than an illegitimate puppet installed illegally by the United States.
Afghanistan has long ranked among the most corrupt nations on earth, and any end to US involvement in the country would likely mean a reduction in the amount of foreign aid which goes into the Ghani administration.
A conflict of interest becomes clear immediately, with the Ghani government needing the Americans to survive, and the Taliban feeling they can increase the scope of their influence after they leave.
In 2015, the Taliban marched on Kunduz against government forces and briefly took control of the city before being driven out with U.S. air power. Ghani’s terms will likely be steep knowing that the Taliban are a better motivated, better coordinated, and less corrupt military than the Afghan Security Forces who have been notoriously prone to desertion, corruption, firing on American soldiers, and possessing of generally poor resolve.