On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, commemorating the 20th anniversary of attacks on New York and Washington that led to a US-led military invasion. leader.
This announcement caused controversy among US policy circles. Some have argued that the withdrawal is on terms, dependent on ensuring adequate anti-terrorism guarantees and a peaceful settlement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Assessments of US intelligence agencies in recent months suggest that withdrawal in the absence of an internal Afghan peace deal could lead to the downfall of the government in Kabul within a few years and the collapse of the government. the potential resurgence of al-Qaeda in this country.
However, Biden’s enduring opposition to “wars forever” kept him from extending the deadline for his retreat, as his administration shifted its focus to emerging security challenges in the East. ASIAN. He limited space to maneuver due to the ceasefire agreement signed with the Taliban under President Donald Trump last year, pledging the US to complete the withdrawal by May 1, 2021. The Taliban have repeatedly asserted that failing to withdraw before this deadline will lead to war.
Disaster can still be averted if the Taliban choose to react appropriately to this announcement, the Afghan government tries to take a unified stance on a peaceful solution and the international community expands key guarantees. Values are required for both sides.
Biden’s announcement of the new withdrawal date intends to erase the damage his predecessor’s Afghanistan strategy did. Although this is seen as an attempt to buy more time to counter the poor order of the 2020 peace deal, first of all, the goal of the delay is to repair the relationship with NATO, which have been harmed under Trump.
The transatlantic relations were affected by Trump’s accusations that NATO members did not pay the alliance fees and his threats to punish Germany, the leading contributor in Afghanistan after the United States. Negotiations over a withdrawal deal with the Taliban last year also took place without fully considering the needs of NATO members who are dependent on the US military for airlift assistance.
Hence, choosing September 11 as the withdrawal date is just as logistical as it is symbolic. It is designed to provide enough time for NATO members to coordinate with the US as they leave Afghanistan. The day after Biden made the announcement, NATO issued a statement saying its troops would also be leaving on the same day.
This move by the Biden administration should be seen in the context of the country trying to turn US foreign policy back to multilateralism. Rebuilding relations with NATO and other partners is seen as necessary for the United States to be better equipped to face various global challenges, such as the rise of China and climate change. Queen.
The schedule of the withdrawal announcements seems to suggest that the Biden administration wants the US and NATO to speak together at the UN-facilitated Afghanistan internal conference in Istanbul, originally scheduled for April 14.
Afghanistan internal negotiations
The Istanbul conference was central to a rapid diplomatic effort launched by the Biden administration last month to seek a resolution before May 1. The conference was set up to involve major powers in the region. and a peaceful internal resolution in Afghanistan. before the US withdrew. After the Taliban failed to respond to its proposed April 14 date, it was pushed back to April 24th. Now with the delay it may become inappropriate, especially since there is still nothing. make sure the Taliban attend. The group’s spokesperson released a statement saying that unilateral extension of the withdrawal violated the agreement and allowed the Taliban to take “necessary countermeasures”.
The value of the Istanbul conference will have to be made clear in order for the Taliban leaders to ensure their participation. Some of their demands – release Taliban prisoners, lift UN Security Council sanctions and Turkey’s specific request for reduced military support to the former Deputy-General Afghan governor Abdul Rashid Dostum – will have to be resolved.
Faced with this uncertainty, the fact that Afghans and many international stakeholders appear to have leapt towards Istanbul and abandon negotiations under the Doha process is dangerous for this fragile phase of the peace process. . Switching between channels of mediation without a commitment to an obvious end will only be time consuming at the cost of a peace deal, especially since the important issue remains the absence of mandate. for the role of formal mediation.
The divide within the Afghan government and the competitive peace proposals from Presidents Ashraf Ghani and the US further complicates matters. This further convinces the Taliban of the inability of government negotiators to make consistent and sound decisions.
Regardless of what happens to Istanbul, the Afghan government, headed by the High Council for National Reconciliation, must take a unified stance and both sides should work towards the publication of an official statement of guiding principles as the standard for follow-up negotiations.
The way to peace
With the US and the world signaling their interest in Afghanistan waning, it’s time for Afghans to take the lead in negotiations and agree on a permanent ceasefire and a peaceful solution. . The coming months will be crucial in determining whether the Taliban and the Afghan government can perform the leadership roles needed to manage war-tired Afghans.
This is the time for Taliban leaders to demonstrate to the Afghans and the world their political prudence. For them, at least, there is a silver lining for the withdrawal announcement in that it represents a stark difference from previous reports that NATO troops would stay without the US on a long schedule. more based on conditions.
It is important for Taliban leaders to carefully consider the context of the US and NATO withdrawal pledges to avoid falling into the trap of launching retaliation because of limited concern about dates.
The Taliban’s lack of credible assurances that their return to Kabul will not undermine the rights of women and minorities, and the force’s failure to reduce violence to an acceptable level has intensified. insecurity and caused other political factions to begin arming. It is clear that the level of high polarization and anti-Taliban sentiment across Afghanistan as well as regional opposition to an Islamic Emirate or similar regime threatens to spark a conflict if the group does. try to enter the capital in September.
It is important to note that the Taliban have consistently stated that they do not want the 1992 civil war to repeat itself and that they are not seeking the demise of the Afghan state. These longstanding views can be cited to set new parameters for what will happen between May and September, rather than confront the US announcement.
This will allow Afghanistan with the support of the US and its allies to offset the destabilizing influence of countries in the region, including Pakistan. Cooperation on ensuring an orderly and peaceful withdrawal can be exchanged for regional and international political and security guarantees for Afghanistan.
The good news is that many of the major obstacles that delayed negotiations in the past have been removed. President Ghani has accepted to retreat and may end his term early, leaders of the various Afghan political factions have shown a willingness to join and a strong level of trust has been built in. built among members of the Afghan negotiating missions in Doha. the path for a set of principles has been agreed. Now, the road ahead has been cleared for the Afghan leadership, the Afghans responsible for the success or failure of future proceedings.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.