On February 29, a date that comes only once in four years, the U.S. administration signed a deal with the Taliban, whom they have been fighting for almost 19 years in Afghanistan.
The historic deal signed in Qatar was a result of nearly 18 months of negotiations between the U.S. Special Representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Taliban leadership. Among other things, the deal promises the Taliban the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, which has been a key demand of the group. However, except for a few consultations, the talks did not involve the Afghan government, although the deal has set the stage for an intra-Afghan dialogue, scheduled to begin on March 10.
“Given the entire structure of the process, the U.S.-Taliban deal was intentionally very narrow in its goals and objectives because it is still a very early step in the process,” explained Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst on Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group. “An official in Kabul put it really well: ‘In this deal, the Taliban received specific points of assurances, while the U.S. received flexibility’. This is important in the long term because it allows the U.S., knowing that there will be many challenges, to be a judge of whether or not the Taliban met their obligations,” he said.
However, even as the deal holds hope for an end to the steadily increasing violence, Afghans remain deeply concerned over the complex nature of the negotiations, in which they have not found a voice yet. “On social media, I saw that Taliban leaders were celebrating this deal as a victory for the Taliban. The way Abbas Stanekzai, the Taliban’s representative, has been talking about it is scary,” said one Afghan student living in Kabul, who did not want to be identified.
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