Afghanistan in clutches of violence year after US-Taliban peace pact
By Baber Khan Sahel
Kabul, Feb 28 (efe-epa).- A year after the historic Afghan peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban in Doha, there are a few signs of receding violence in a country plagued by decades of war.
The peace deal signed in the Qatari capital last year called for the complete withdrawal of international troops in Afghanistan within 14 months in return for security guarantees that the Taliban would not use Afghan soil to launch terror attacks against other states.
The agreement also envisaged the exchange of thousands of prisoners between the insurgents and the Afghan forces, as a precursor to intra-Afghan talks for peace in the country.
However, the prisoner exchange, scheduled to happen soon after the signing of the Doha deal, took almost six months to complete due to the lack of consensus between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
“This agreement was neither effective in bringing about peace nor stop the bloodshed, or even end the war or the bad days for the Afghans,” Rahmatullah Andar, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Office of National Security Council, told EFE.
In January, the new US administration under President Joe Biden announced that it would review the Doha agreement, especially regarding whether the Taliban was fulfilling its commitments.
It did not specify whether it will withdraw all troops by May as per the deal.
In response, the insurgents warned that if the US troops remained in the country beyond the agreed deadline, they would resume attacks on them. The Taliban have halted such attacks since the signing of the agreement.
“If the Americans stay (beyond the deadline) and do not withdraw all their troops from Afghanistan, then the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) will continue its jihad (…) and the Americans will be responsible for the consequences,” its spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told EFE.
Although the insurgents almost completely stopped their armed attacks on all foreign troops in Afghanistan over the past year, their aggression against Afghan forces continued with civilians also targeted.
Afghanistan experienced “a surge in violent attacks as a result of the US-Taliban agreement. There have been lots of more assassinations and magnetic bomb attacks in urban areas,” Habib Khan Totakhail, President of Afghanistan’s peace watchdog Research Media Center, told EFE.
According to the nonprofit, a total of 3,999 attacks occurred in Afghanistan in the last year, of which 50 percent were attributed to the Taliban and only 25 percent to the government forces, and in which 21,175 people died, mostly insurgents.
Totakhail stressed that the US-Taliban deal would not lead Afghanistan to sustainable peace unless there was a permanent ceasefire.
“Any sort of peace deal will collapse and will not last in absence of a comprehensive ceasefire,” he said.
However, for the Taliban, “if fully implemented, the Doha agreement is the best and most logical way to end the war in Afghanistan,” Muhammad Naeem Wardak, Taliban’s political spokesperson in Qatar, told EFE.
Wardak claimed that the insurgents have significantly reduced their activity following the signing of the agreement “as no major attacks have been carried out against major military bases in urban areas, and Taliban launched no major offensives to capture any provincial capital or district center.”
He accused the US of violating the Doha deal by carrying out bombings in the non-combat zone and not releasing all Taliban prisoners as agreed.
However, the Afghan government has on several occasions opposed the release of more Taliban prisoners, saying that almost 90 percent of the 5,000 released insurgents have already returned to the battlefields.
Despite accusations and problems, both the Afghan government and the Taliban have pledged to seek a political solution through dialog to end the Afghan war.