PICTURED: Taliban fighters. Photo credit: Tolo News.
KABUL, Afghanistan. March 23rd 2020. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo arrived for a brief 7-hour visit to the Afghani capital for a meeting with President Ashraf Ghani, and his primary political rival Abdullah Abdullah, who, received an inauguration to the presidency separate from Ghani after the results of the recent election ended with a razor-thin difference.
Under the recent pre-peace deal signed in Doha, Qatar by representatives of the Taliban and the United States, two stipulations have gone unfulfilled, and that has caused talks to collapse, delegations to depart, and violence to return to the country.
It was laid out in this agreement that Abdullah and Ghani would have intra-Afghan talks to figure out a power sharing agreement, and it was the complete collapse of these talks that was the subject of discussion when Pompeo visited.
Meeting first with Ghani, then Abdullah, before both of them together, Pompeo and the State Department announced that $1 billion dollars in USAID money would be withdrawn, with the 2021 budget featuring a similar $1 billion absence, if there were no progress between them.
Two former high ranking U.S. officials speaking with NBC added there were also threats of a complete U.S. troop withdrawal if a deal wasn’t reached. The current U.S. withdrawal timeline under the Doha Peace was about 14-18 months and depended on various commitments being fulfilled.
Ins and Outs
April 3rd, World at Large reported on a small prisoner exchange that took place between the Taliban and the Afghan Security Forces, totalling about 120 prisoners. The Doha Peace reportedly includes a provision which confirms that 5,000 Taliban captives, including high-ranking members, should be released.
The Ghani government opposed this tenant of the deal at the time it was signed, and has dragged heel so much in the time since, the Taliban have reportedly halted all talks and returned, as they have often done during previous talks, to the Kalashnikov.
One Taliban official was quoted as saying that delays were repeatedly made “under one pretext or another,” before a final offer of 400 low-ranking soldiers for massive concessions was offered. It could not be agreed, and now recent escalations in violence are the consequences.
“This situation has caused the Taliban to be more greedy for power, so they have expanded the war, nothing can deter the Taliban from war unless there is a change in the political situation in Kabul,” said Assadullah Nadiom, a military expert in Kabul, speaking with Tolonews.
After almost 20 years in Afghanistan, with as many opportunities to leave as there are days in a month, it seems hard to believe the military would down tools after 2,400 lives and trillions spent, simply because of a spat between two Afghan aristocrats.
“These negotiations have to be intra-Afghan negotiations amongst those parties, and that our expectation, whether that is for President Ghani and Abdullah to figure out the political challenges that confront them, for us to get the deal with the Taliban right, for America to deliver on its commitment that says we will reduce our forces in accordance with the agreement on the conditions that are set out in those agreements,” remarked Pompeo to the traveling press.
Reducing forces in accordance with the agreement on the conditions that are set out in those agreements requires many stipulations to be met, and it would be the shock foreign policy posture of the century if these disruptions in the Ghani-Abdullah-Taliban relationship let to a complete withdrawal of troops, especially considering that a resumption of violence means the continued need to train and equip the Afghan Security Forces.