The United States on Saturday signed a long-awaited peace deal that seeks to end the violence in Afghanistan and bring US soldiers home from America’s longest war.
The deal, which follows a weeklong ceasefire by the Taliban, outlines the gradual withdrawal of all US and allied forces over the next 14 months.
In exchange, the Taliban has agreed “not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the US and its allies” and to prevent said groups from “recruiting, training, and fundraising.”
The four-page deal sets the stage for political talks between the Taliban and the fractured Afghan government and demands the release of 5,000 Taliban militants from state-run jails. The deal does not address women’s rights, but officials last week promised that women would “have a seat at the table during the negotiations.”
As expected, lawmakers are hesitant to trust the Taliban to obey the deal.
“I am very suspect of the Taliban ever accepting the Afghan constitution and honoring the rights of religious minorities and women,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “Time will tell if reconciliation in Afghanistan can be accomplished with honor and security, but after more than 18 years of war, it is time to try.”
The war in Afghanistan began in October 2001 when then-President George W. Bush ordered the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 terror attacks.
While it took just a few months to expel Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan, US troops remained in the country for years attempting to build a stable democracy. Efforts to do so failed, and the Taliban regained control of nearly half the country.
Over the past 18 years, the US Government has dumped $750 billion into a losing battle that has claimed the lives of roughly 2,400 Americans and more than 90,000 Afghans. Attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan peaked in 2019, including an attack that killed two US soldiers earlier this month.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US remains “realistic” about the deal but is “seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation.” He added that the US would take any actions necessary to ensure the safety of US troops if the Taliban should fail to hold up its end of the deal.
Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda will be key to success.
“The road to peace will be long and hard and there will be setbacks, and there is a risk always for spoilers,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “But the thing is, we are committed, the Afghan people are committed to peace, and we will continue to provide support.”
NATO members this weekend signed a separate deal with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pledging their support for Afghanistan during this sensitive time.
President Trump has long promised to remove US troops from the “endless wars” in the Middle East and this peace deal could give him a huge boost moving into the 2020 election.
“If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home,” said Trump. “These commitments represent an important step to a lasting peace in a new Afghanistan, free from al-Qaeda, ISIS, and any other terrorist group that would seek to bring us harm.”