The recent US-Taliban deal might have given President Donald Trump a reason to rejoice, but Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s rejection of the Taliban prisoner release clause in the US deal and Afghan women’s disappointment at the return of the Taliban to power cast a large shadow over the deal.
Afghan President Ghani: US is ‘Only a Facilitator’
Ghani remarked: “is not in the authority of the United States to decide, they are only a facilitator” a day after the deal was signed in Qatar, Doha. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo observed that “talks between the Afghan government and Taliban groups will be “rocky and bumpy, but for the first time the conversation will be among the Afghan people.”
All these indicate that a topsy-turvy road is ahead for the deal. The Taliban wants the release of their 5,000 prisoners before they start negotiations, while the Afghan government wants to use those detainees as a bargaining chip to persuade the Taliban for a full ceasefire.
As per the agreement, Washington will reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 from 13,000 within 135 days of signing. Provided the Taliban stick to their security guarantees and ceasefire, the US will also work with allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over that time. More than 2,400 US troops have been killed during the conflict since the US invasion in 2001.
Afghan Women: Caught Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Women across strife-torn Afghanistan fear that the deal could deteriorate their already tenuous situation in the country. Women are nervous about losing their hard-won freedom in the pursuit of peace. They want peace, but not if the Taliban returns. A Taliban comeback will affect women’s right to freedom, work, and independence.
In Kabul, social activist Zahra Husseini told AFP, “I don’t trust the Taliban, they suppressed women when they were ruling.” Zahra termed the deal signing ceremony as a dark day, “I had this bad feeling that it would result in Taliban return to power rather than in peace.”
It is worth mentioning that the Taliban ruled for around five years with an iron fist starting in 1996 until the US invasion in 2001. During their rule, women were prevented from seeking education or work, and women were virtual prisoners living under a strict version of Islamic Sharia law.
The Taliban’s fall transformed women’s lives, particularly in urban areas, like Kabul, more so than in traditional rural Afghanistan. Women are anxious to see an end to the violence but are fearful of paying a heavy price.
Trump’s Hopes vs. the Likely Outcome
Trump’s desperation to get out of Afghanistan before the 2020 Presidential elections might adversely impact peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. The US-Taliban deal might be as controversial as Trump’s Israel-Palestine deal and prove to be merely an exercise to consolidate Trump’s vote bank in the US presidential election at the expense of real foresight and strategy.
Trump is hopeful that the Middle-East proposal and the Taliban deal will present a rosy picture of his skills as a statesman, however, regardless of the objective of the deal, it comes with huge risks. The intra-Afghan negotiations will be much more challenging than anticipated, especially more than the Western perspective understands. There has to be reconciliation between democratic modern Afghanistan that has been created since 2001 and the Taliban’s vision of an “Islamic Emirate”.
No doubt the priority for ordinary Afghans is an end to violence. The coming warmer spring weather — which is usually the fighting period — will show the world whether peace and tranquility will prevail in Afghanistan or not.