After a week-long reduction in violence across war-torn Afghanistan, the much-awaited peace deal between the United States and the Taliban was sealed on February 29. The ceremony was held in Qatar's capital Doha. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met a 31-strong Taliban delegation and called it a 'momentous day'. The deal marked a historic step in more than 18 years of conflict in Afghanistan and is further expected to pave the way for a deal that might see an end to the war.
While speaking at the ceremony, Pompeo said, “US will closely watch the Taliban's compliance with their commitments, and calibrate the pace of our withdrawal to their actions. This is how we will ensure that Afghanistan never again serves for international terrorists.”
The new peace deal agrees on the complete withdrawal of US and NATO troops within 14 months if the Taliban abide by the agreement. Furthermore, under the agreement, the militants also agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control. US has also agreed to refrain itself from the use of force against Afghanistan or intervening in domestic affairs. It has also committed to seeking annual funds to train, equip and advice the Afghanistan security forces.
The US-Taliban peace deal also proposes an intra-Afghan dialogue with the government in Kabul and the release of 5,000 Taliban members from prison. According to a joint statement, the Afghan government will also engage with the United Nations Security Council to remove Taliban members from sanctions list by May 29.
A day before the signing of the deal, Trump in a statement said, “Soon, at my direction, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will witness the signing of an agreement with representatives of the Taliban”. He added, “If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home”.
According to Trump, the new peace-deal represents an important step to peace in a new Afghanistan which is free from al-Qaeda, ISIS and any other terror group that would seek to bring harm. Trump said, “These agreements are a result of the strenuous efforts of those who fought so hard in Afghanistan for the United States of America”. Earlier on Saturday, the Taliban even ordered its fighters to refrain from any attacks.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with a harsh version of Islamic law from 1996 to 2001 and hosted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, reportedly even said that they no longer seek a monopoly on power, however, the militant group continued to control or hold sway over roughly half of the country.
Before signing the agreement., there were also fears that a full withdrawal of some 20,000 NATO troops, including about 12,000 US forces, would leave the Afghan government vulnerable, or unleash another round of fighting in a war that has reportedly killed tens of thousands of Afghans and also claimed the lives of 2,400 US servicemen and women.