The process towards a historic peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban in Afghanistan has started. A gradual truce is indeed supposed to apply since midnight Saturday. The deal is expected to be initialed on February 29, provided that a drop in attacks is seen across Afghan territory, a prerequisite demanded by Washington.
Trump’s campaign promise
“Once (the reduction of violence) is successfully implemented, the signing of the agreement between the United States and the Taliban should go forward,” said US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo at About this promise from Donald Trump, who pledged in his 2016 presidential campaign to withdraw the U.S. military from this deadly and unpopular theater of operations. The agreement will condition this partial withdrawal of US troops to security guarantees from the Taliban. One of America’s goals is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a jihadist hideout again.
The U.S. and @NATO remain committed to ensuring Afghanistan never again becomes a safe-haven for terrorists to threaten the security of the U.S. & our allies. Should the Taliban reject the path of peace, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our Afghan partners.
– Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper (@EsperDoD) February 21, 2020
Pentagon chief Mark Esper, however, warned that if the Taliban does not demonstrate “its commitment to a real reduction in violence”, the United States “remains ready to defend itself and its Afghan partners.” Both parties have, however, prepared to go in the right direction. “We have received orders from our leaders asking us to be ready for the reduction in violence which will start on Saturday,” said a Taliban from the Maiwand district in southern Kandahar province. Another Taliban commander based in Kandahar, Hafiz Saeed Hedayat, said that the reduction in fighting would only apply “to cities and main roads”. “This means that perhaps the violence will continue in rural districts”.
Afghan President’s warning
Confidence is therefore not yet complete. “The Afghan security forces will remain in active defense for the week,” warned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a televised speech. “The next steps in the peace process will depend on the assessment of violence reduction this week,” added the president re-elected this week for a second term.
Some 12 to 13,000 American soldiers are based in Afghanistan, the country where the United States is waging the longest war in its history. Other countries, notably European, are also involved in the field. The Taliban were driven from power in Afghanistan by an international coalition led by the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The insurgents, who have ruled in Kabul since 1996, then led a relentless guerrilla war, which killed more than 2,400 American soldiers and tens of thousands of members of the Afghan security forces.