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Farewell Uncle Sam?

Hollywood, Statue of Liberty, Oprah, Abraham Lincoln, The Empire State Building and Trump’s tweets aren’t the only things the United States of America is famous for. The Big Brother Energytm and invasions are also what makes America Great (again), and the most prominent example of the aforementioned would be the US invasion of Afghanistan.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 in response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda. Taliban, which controlled Afghanistan in 2001 refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden, the man responsible for orchestrating the attacks, resulting in the US invasion of Afghanistan and consequently, an 18-year-long war. In 2004, the US and its allies were successful in removing the Taliban from power, however, as soon as the allies backed out, the Taliban grew again. So despite having a US-backed government in Afghanistan, the Taliban controlled over 70% of the country. Following which, the then-in-power Bush administration established US troops and military bases in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and prevent the country from becoming a terrorist base of operations.

The US-Taliban war is one of the most gruesome and costly wars fought by the US, leaving behind innumerable casualties and war-aggrieved families. Its cost exceeds over $2 trillion, excluding post-war care for veterans and injured soldiers. Thousands of Afghans were displaced and killed, and Afghanistan currently retains the largest refugee population in the world. Yet the war was internationally recognised as a necessary evil because the US’s withdrawal would engender a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, and Taliban has made no attempts to hide its inclination towards harbouring and creating terrorist organisations. The Trump administration, however, does not agree to the US’s presence in Afghanistan as necessary. They asserted that the war was a drain on the US’s resources and that the US had ‘no need’ to fight a war for someone else. These statements, no matter how contrary to past US dealings with other countries (Vietnam and Syria to name a few) resonated with the masses. And President Trump’s penchant for power-moves and ‘businessman-like’ deals consequently paved the way for a ‘peace accord’.

The negotiations began in 2019, and finally, on 29 February 2020, the US signed the peace accord with the Taliban. Under the accord, in exchange for the withdrawal of the US troops, Taliban agreed to not associate with terrorist organisations such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda or any other militant group. It agreed to not allow the use of Afghan territory to plot, organise or launch attacks on the US and its allies. The US troops are expected to evacuate within 14 months for the agreement to hold.

The terms further negotiated for a peaceful power-sharing agreement to be agreed upon between the Afghanistan government and Taliban within the 14-month withdrawal period. This clause claims the protection of the US-backed Afghan government from the Taliban during the negotiation. Furthermore, the US has agreed to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by the Afghani forces in return for the 1,000 members of the Afghan forces. The US has also promised to facilitate the removal of penalties and sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

The problem arises, however, due to the ‘secret annexes’ in the peace accord. The members and MPs who were made abreast with the two classified annexes have claimed them to be nebulous and are sceptical of the success of the peace accord. They feel that the terms in the annex are insufficient and unlikely to hold the Taliban accountable to its terms. The Afghan government officials fear that the Taliban would not adhere to the stipulations of the accord, reports and recent tweets by the Taliban have also provided little relief. News reports of the Taliban violating the week-old peace accord have surfaced. A recent report by NBC News claims to have intel that the Taliban does not intend to abide by the contract, and US allies and the public are now wary of the peace accord.

The primary stakeholders in this deal, the Afghanistan government and the civilians, were largely kept on the periphery of the agreement. The government fears that the US troops will withdraw regardless of the Taliban’s defection. Afghani officials and governments have become reliant on the USA’s protection and financial assistance, rendering them unequipped to deal with the troop’s withdrawal in the face of an incoming onslaught by the Taliban. The most vulnerable to this treaty would be the Afghani women and children, who, in a very likely scenario of the Taliban regaining control, have the most to lose under their oppressive regime. Public flogging and execution, no rights and being denied their education and freedom are some of their most common fears.

The peace accord is not expected to sustain itself once the troops depart, leaving Afghanistan vulnerable to the Taliban. Policymakers and diplomats augur a Taliban regime being established shortly after. A direct consequence of the same would be upon the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Iran, India and even China. With no US troops to fight, their focus would lie on gaining more power and territory. Perhaps, the most ludicrous aspect of this treaty is that, by the virtue of entering into an agreement with the Taliban to prevent terrorism, they have also entered into an agreement with an officially listed terrorist group, the Haqqani Network. This network is known for its campaign of suicide bombings. The network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the Taliban’s deputy leader and military commander, hence, further reducing the likelihood of any success in this endeavour.

The fragility of this peace accord has not escaped the US government, Secretary of the State, Mike Pompeo has even acknowledged that they ‘expected the road to be difficult’. Taliban has attacked the Afghan government more than 70 times since February 29, in direct violation of the agreement, and the US government hasn’t done much besides issuing slight rebukes and warnings.

Having seen the toll this war has taken on the US, no one can fault them for withdrawing, however, a pertinent point of contention remains as to why should the US fight and ensure that the peace accord holds before leaving? The answer to this, perhaps, lies in the historical precedent set by the US itself. The US has often claimed itself to be the ‘Harbinger of Democracy’, having fought wars and invaded countries to secure freedom and sovereignty. Similarly, upon entering Afghanistan in 2001 and subsequently establishing troops and beginning a decade-long tussle, the United States made peace its primary aim in Afghanistan. One cannot also ignore the harmful and potentially disastrous consequences of the troops backing out without a stable arrangement in place. The Land of Liberty promised help against the Taliban to the people and the government of Afghanistan, it now remains to be seen whether they fulfill this promise or not.

The Pangean does not condemn or condone any of the views of its contributors. It only gives them the space to think and write without hindrance.