Biden administration to review US-Taliban deal

Under a February 2020 deal, US forces are to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees.

Khalilzad and taliban signing
Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Qatar last year to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the armed group [File: Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

The United States will review the peace agreement reached with the Taliban last year, the White House announced.

President Joe Biden’s newly appointed national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, spoke with his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib and “made clear the United States’ intention to review” the deal, said National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne late on Friday.

Specifically, Washington wants to check that the Taliban is “living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders”, her statement said.

Sullivan “underscored that the US will support the peace process with a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire”.

Mohib tweeted during the call the two sides “agreed to work toward a permanent ceasefire and a just and durable peace” in the country.

Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Qatar last year to begin American troops’ withdrawal in return for security guarantees from the armed group and a commitment to kick-start peace talks with the Afghan government.

But violence across Afghanistan has surged despite the two sides engaging in talks since September.

‘Honour our commitments’

Sullivan also discussed the US’s support for protecting recent progress made on women and minority groups’ rights as part of the peace process.

The Taliban said they remained “committed to the agreement and honour our commitments”.

“We expect the other side to remain committed to the agreement too,” Mohammad Naeem, the group’s spokesman in Qatar, told AFP news agency.

Washington’s move was met with a sigh of relief from officials in Kabul after months of speculation over how the new administration would potentially recalibrate the Afghan policy.

Another top Afghan government official lambasted the Taliban’s failure to live up to the February 2020 deal, saying the agreement failed to achieve its stated goals.

“The agreement so far did not deliver a desired goal of ending Taliban violence and bringing a ceasefire desired by the Afghans,” Sediq Sediqqi, deputy interior minister and former spokesman to President Ashraf Ghani, said on Twitter.

“The Taliban did not live up to its commitments.”

Analysts say the Biden administration needs a comprehensive review of the Doha agreement to understand what has been agreed on both sides.

“The Biden administration seems to be more committed to reduction in violence (RIV) in Afghanistan and if you look at the agreement, RIV is one of the main points in it. But we have seen a surge in violence so if found that the Taliban have not shown their commitment in reducing violence they will come under pressure from the new administration,” Fahim Sadat, an international relations professor at Kardan University in Kabul, told Al Jazeera.

Brazen attacks

Deadly attacks and high-profile assassinations have increased in recent months, particularly in Kabul where journalists, activists, judges and politicians have been murdered in brazen daylight attacks.

Though Afghan and US officials have blamed the Taliban for the killings, the group has denied its role.

“Also, the Afghan government is expecting to work closely with the new administration to share their concerns regarding the US-Taliban deal where they feel [former president Donald] Trump was lenient towards the Taliban,” Sadat said.

On Tuesday, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his Senate confirmation hearing “we want to end this so-called forever war”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies