US officials and Taliban representatives have signed a final peace deal after months of negotiations in Qatar’s capital to end the United States’s longest war, fought in Afghanistan. Agreement, signed in Doha in the presence of leaders from Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, will pave the way for the United States to gradually withdraw its troops. The two sides have long wrangled over the US demand for a ceasefire before the final peace agreement was signed. The Taliban ordered all its fighters to halt fighting and “refrain from attacks”. Mohammed Naeem, a Taliban representative in Doha, described the deal as “a step forward”. The US invaded Afghanistan weeks after the September 2001 attacks by the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda group. More than 2,400 US troops have been killed during the conflict. About 12,000 are still stationed in the country. President Trump has promised to put an end to the conflict
Background to the Afghan war:
- It began when the US launched air strikes one month following the 11 September 2001 attacks and after the Taliban had refused to hand over the man behind them, Osama bin Laden.
- The US was joined by an international coalition and the Taliban were quickly removed from power. However, they turned into an insurgent force and continued deadly attacks, destabilising subsequent Afghan governments.
- The international coalition ended its combat mission in 2014, staying only to train Afghan forces. But the US continued its own, scaled-back combat operation, including air strikes.
- The Taliban has however continued to gain momentum and in 2018 it was found they were active across 70% of Afghanistan.
- Nearly 3,500 members of the international coalition forces have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
- The figures for Afghan civilians, militants and government forces are more difficult to quantify. In a February 2019 report, the UN said that more than 32,000 civilians had died.
- US has been exhausted by its long drawn out involvement in Afghanistan.
- The financial aspect has been impacting The US.
- This was seen as a hopeless war.
Highlights of the agreement:
- Military troops withdrawal: It lays out a 14-month timetable for the withdrawal of “all military forces of the United States, its allies, and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel.”
- Release of prisoners: The agreement also calls for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 “prisoners of the other side” on the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations. The relevant sides have the goal of releasing all the remaining prisoners over the course of the subsequent three months.
- Taliban side
- Taliban will take steps “to prevent any group or individual, including al-Qa’ida, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
- Those steps include commitments that the Taliban will instruct its members “not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies”.
- It “will also prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the United States and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement.”
Measures needed for India:
- The concern for India is the process of the US withdrawal should not leave a vacuum in the region which is filled with extremist and terrorist.
- There should not be a civil war like situation in Afghanistan because India has been engaged in good developments there.
- Despite the restricted room for manoeuvre, however, there are several steps New Delhi can and must take in the present scenario to ensure both its own relevance in Afghanistan and stability in the region.
- To begin with, there is the question of talks with the Taliban, which India has thus far refused.
- India needs to monitor the Taliban’s approach to groups fostered by the Pakistani state to target India.
- India must focus on assisting Afghanistan in every manner possible to ensure that the country’s elections are as peaceful and participative as possible.
- On the military front as well, India must move quickly to provide helicopters as well as engineering/tech support for Afghan hardware.
- Indian government must realise that its consistent undermining of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) because of problems with Pakistan is also weakening Afghanistan’s engagement with the subcontinent, which India had worked hard to foster
- For regional security there must be closer involvement of regional powers in international efforts to ensure non-interference and a stable Afghanistan; this also requires involvement of the Central Asian Republics, which border Afghanistan.
- It is important for India to coordinate its efforts with those of Russia and Iran to ensure success.
Concerns here for India:
- The concern is whatever regime emerges after peace talks there should be political plurality, minority and women rights respected, giving up of terrorism.
- We are quite exposed because we have given aid of 3B $.
- Pakistan wants India should not play any major role there.
- Is India an ally?In the Doha agreement, the Taliban has guaranteed “enforcement mechanisms that will prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies”. However, it is unclear whether India, which is not a U.S. ally, is included in this definition, and whether Pakistan-backed groups that threaten India would still operate in Afghanistan.
- Impact of prisoner release and lifting sanctions: India is also most worried about the “mainstreaming of the Haqqani network”, which Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists reportedly fight alongside and were responsible for the 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. Release of prisoners would be a boost for these terror groups.
- Threats from Pakistan: The U.S. has committed to taking Taliban leaders off the UN Security Council’s sanctions list by May 29, 2020, which could considerably bring down the number of terrorists Pakistan is accused of harbouring, according to the FATF greylist conditions.
- Recognition to Taliban: As per the agreement, the US appears to have submitted to the possibility of a Taliban-led government, by extracting promises that the Taliban will not provide “visas, passports, travel documents or asylum” to those threatening the U.S. and its allies. This appears to sideline India’s support for the election process for leadership in Afghanistan.
Echoing the Afghan stand, India has been asserting that the peace process must be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.”