By Dr Zubair Popalzai
12 February 2019
Much of Washington’s efforts since 2009 have been centred on how to bring America’s longest war in Afghanistan to an early end. President Barack Obama even set a deadline for military withdrawal in July 2011. Since then, violence has escalated and spread to relatively peaceful parts of the country.
For this purpose, the first public face-to-face meeting was held between Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, on 23 July 2018. This, and possibly other similar covert meetings, marked an aberration of the stated US policy of not negotiating directly with the Taliban, the insurgent group that the United States-led NATO has been fighting arguably unsuccessfully for nearly two decades since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Previously, the US had been insisting that Taliban negotiate with the Afghan government directly.
Most recently, a US delegation led by State Department Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives from the Taliban Political Office – the headquarters in Qatar – held six-day peace talks between 21 and 26 January in Doha and reached an agreement on a draft peace deal.
Under the agreement, which reportedly has four parts, namely ceasefire, counter-terrorism, troop withdrawal, and intra-Afghan talks. According to Reuters report on 26 January, the US has apparently agreed to pull out its troops from Afghanistan 18 months after the agreement is signed. In exchange, Taliban have reportedly committed to preventing international terrorist groups, including Al-Qaidah and the Daesh from using Afghan territory against the US.