US To Pull Out Of Afghanistan Earlier Than Planned

US would be withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan before the planned date. The move comes in light of Coronavirus pandemic, which has made placing of troops in foreign nations harmful on economy as well as unsafe for the troops.

Crux of the Matter

US-Taliban Deal
On 29 February 2020, the US and Taliban signed an agreement that would see US withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The first phase would see the number of troops decreasing from 12,000 to 8,600 by July. Complete withdrawal would be done by May 2021 under specified conditions. For the Taliban, the deal compels the group to act in the interest of peace while maintaining separation from Al-Qaeda.

However, the US is seeking earlier withdrawal of troops due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Besides affecting the economy with the burden of placing troops in distant nations, there is a threat of the soldiers contacting the virus as Pentagon has reported Covid-19 in around 50% of Afghan forces. Consequently, President Trump has planned to have the soldiers back by presidential elections. Instead of reducing numbers to 8,600 by July, the number has decreased to 8,500 already by May.


Local Situation
The agreement also compelled the exchange of around 6,000 prisoners between Afghanistan and Taliban. More importantly, a cease-fire was observed between the 2 forces on occasion of Eid. The step marked a severe reduction in civilian deaths, which has garnered worldwide appraisal.

India welcomes the understanding reached for a ceasefire in Afghanistan for three days during the Eid. We hope that this ceasefire would extend further and become permanent to address the dire humanitarian situation resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and pave the way for durable peace and stability to Afghans.

Ministry of External Affairs, India


Peace With India?
After recent social media posts claiming the Taliban’s imminent attack on Delhi for its stance on Kashmir, a Taliban spokesperson has refuted the claims, declaring Kashmir as “India’s internal affair”.

The statement published in the media about Taliban joining Jihad in Kashmir is wrong. The policy of the Islamic Emirate is clear that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

Suhail Shaheen, Spokesperson, Taliban

Nevertheless, experts have warned India to keep an eye on the Taliban as one of its supporters is Pakistan’s ISI, which claims Kashmir its own.

Afghanistan Before 2001

  • 1978: People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDA) replaces Govt in a coup allegedly backed by Soviet Union.
  • December 1978: Deal with Soviet Union to provide military assistance. Revolt ensued against Soviet interference and negation of Islamic faith by radical secularization.
  • 1979: Soviet invades Afghanistan. US retaliates by arming Mujahideen against Soviets as part of its “Cold-War”.
  • 1992: Civil war in Afghanistan.
  • 1996: Taliban, risen from Mujahideen funded by US-Pakistan-Saudi Arabia, attacks Afghanistan and gains control. Imposes orthodox Islamic rule.


US Enters Afghanistan

  • 2001: US launches an attack on Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. Temporary government set up in Afghanistan.
  • 2001-2009: Attacks on Afghanistan by resurgent Taliban.
  • 2009: President Obama shifts forces to Afghanistan.
  • 2014: Coalition of international forces withdraws, leaving a few troops to train Afghani forces.
  • 2017: Mutual aggression between US-Taliban continues
  • 2020: US-Taliban sign peace-agreement


US- A Timeline of Pull Outs

  • 2011: Obama announces withdrawal of 33,000 troops by 2012.
  • 2014: Obama announces complete withdrawal by 2016. Posits only 9,800 troops to remain beyond 2014.
  • 2019: Trump calls off peace talks amidst renewed Taliban attacks.
  • 2020: Trump orders phased removal of troops.

Curiopedia
  • In 2012, President of the United States, Barack Obama declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally. According to a 2012 BBC poll, the U.S. was the most favored country in Afghanistan.
  • The first recorded contact between Afghanistan and the United States occurred in the 1830s when Josiah Harlan, an American adventurer and political activist from the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania, traveled to the Indian subcontinent with intentions of becoming the King of Afghanistan.
  • Zero Dark Thirty is a 2012 American thriller film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. The film dramatizes the nearly decade-long international manhunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks. The film briefly showcases the American troops in Afghanistan who flew two stealth helicopters from Afghanistan into Pakistan to execute the most wanted terrorist at the time.

Video

US-Taliban Ink Peace Deal: Will there be political imbalance in the region?

US and Taliban have signed a peace deal to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan. The deal has various aspects of establishing peace in the region. Besides having an impact on the US elections, it might increase geopolitical tension between China, India, and Pakistan. In the previous video, we looked at the history of the Taliban, and the US-Afghan War. You can check out that video here. Here we explore the parts of the deal and how it would affect the geopolitical balance of the region.

Read the full coverage at US-Taliban Ink Peace Deal; Geopolitical Uncertainty Increases
Video

US-Taliban Ink Peace Deal: What is the History Behind the War?

US and Taliban have signed a peace deal to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan. The deal has various aspects of establishing peace in the region. Besides having an impact on the US elections, it might increase geopolitical tension between China, India, and Pakistan. In this video, we look at the history of the Taliban, and the US-Afghan War.

Read the full coverage at US-Taliban Ink Peace Deal; Geopolitical Uncertainty Increases

US-Taliban Ink Peace Deal; Geopolitical Uncertainty Increases

US and Taliban sign a Peace Deal to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan. With many highs and lows, this surrender of US will usher the world in a new era. With FATF pressuring Pakistan to put a leash on terrorist activities, it remains to be seen how Taliban will respond to its long-standing demand for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. The regional political balances may shift with China-backed Pakistan trying to strengthen ties with Afghan and India establishing strong ties with MidEast nations.

Crux of the Matter

US-Afghanistan ties strengthened during the Cold War. Besides top diplomats from both countries visiting nations, United States started economic assistance to Afghanistan for building infrastructure and skill development of Afghans. However, the 1978 Saur Revolution by the Soviet funded People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDFA) and the 1978 murder of US Ambassador Adolph Dubs deteriorated US-Afghan ties. US later funded Mujahideen groups to overthrow the Soviet-backed government. Post-1992, after the fall of the Soviet-backed government, Mujahideen groups funded by US started fighting amongst themselves.

What is Taliban?
Taliban is a military organization with a Sunni Islamic Fundamentalist political movement. As per Carole Hillenbrand, Taliban has risen from the mujahideen funding by US-Saudi-Pakistan to fight the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Taliban was at its peak during the years 1996-2001 when it controlled nearly 75% of Afghanistan and implemented its strict interpretation of the Sharia Law.

Studies have recognized that Afghanistan’s living condition and economic development was badly affected during Taliban rule. Talibanization led to a deficiency in basic necessities and utility services and compromise in the safety of women and children. US overthrew the Taliban government after the 9/11 terror attacks.

US, with the help of NATO allies, launched a coalition attack on Taliban, which made an offer to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral country for stopping bombings in the region on the condition that US is able to prove Osama’s linkages with Taliban. US began targeted killing of top Taliban leaders using its Special Forces and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). On the flip side, Taliban also began the targeted killing of anti-Taliban people. Most notably, they had killed former Afghanistan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

It is alleged that Taliban was evacuated from Kabul by Pakistan’s ISI. Later Taliban regrouped and began a war to drive out US forces from Afghanistan, while the US kept dumping more and more troops in the region.

US-Afghan Enduring War
Osama bin Laden-backed 9/11 terror attacks changed US’ outlook towards Afghanistan. US had launched Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) to drive out Osama bin Laden, terrorist organization al-Qaeda, and Taliban. US successfully overthrew the Taliban and backed the new Hamid Karzai-led government. US once again resumed assistance to Afghanistan in the form of economic support for infrastructure development in one of the most underdeveloped nations.

US started deploying troops in Afghanistan and by 2010 the number of troops was around 100,000. On May 2, 2011, US assassinated al-Qaeda founder and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. A year later, then US President Barack Obama on a surprise visit to Afghanistan had signed the “Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America” that laid out the framework of the US-Afghan relationship after US forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan. As a part of the Agreement Afghanistan became a “major non-NATO ally” of US.

The years of dragging has cost US more than $750 billion. Moreover, the dire part is that nearly 2,500 Americans and 32,000 Afghanis have died as a part of the war.

White Flag to War
After a 7-day truce and reduction of violence in the region, US and Taliban have decided to end the 18-year long war. US-Taliban representatives – U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the head of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar – signed a Peace Deal in the presence of diplomats from India, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, and Tajikistan. The deal has 4 major parts:

1. It lays down a timeline of 14 months for the withdrawal of troops given Taliban follows demands of peace laid down by the US
2. Taliban will withdraw from Afghanistan
3. Establishment of inclusive negotiations among Taliban, Afghanistan and related groups like Pakhtuns, etc.
4. An effort for peace and a permanent ceasefire must be made by Afghanistan.

US will withdraw half of its troops in the next 3 months, leaving about 8,500 soldiers still in Afghanistan. Other US and NATO allies troops will be drawn-down gradually in a period of 14 months. As a part of the deal, sanctions on Afghanistan will be withdrawn by the United Nations within 3 months and US sanctions within 14 months.

US-Vietnam Peace Deal 2.0?
In 1973, US signed the Paris Accord with Vietnam and assured the withdrawal of troops. As per the deal, North Vietnam and South Vietnam would negotiate their way out and US would come to assist if anything went south. And North Vietnam went south and dominated the southern part. However, US did not come for any assistance because of the Watergate scandal involving President Richard Nixon and the burgeoning anti-war sentiment in the US.

Then US carried out ‘Operation Frequent Wind‘ to evacuate the threatened American troops, which were a handful. Many experts are apprehensive that once again US might go through a similar situation because of Taliban resurgence, which may be backed by Pakistan.

A Roadblock Already
The Peace Deal also mentioned the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners from Afghan’s sides and 1,000 Afghan prisoners from Taliban side. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has objected to the exchange of prisoners and said that it can be a negotiation point but not a precondition laid out by the US. With the first setback to the Peace Deal, it reaffirms that the toughest challenge will be harmony between Afghan and Taliban.

Geopolitical Consequence for India
India’s Ambassador Qatar P Kumaran was invited at the ceremony of deal signing. As Afghanistan also recognized India’s persistent efforts to stabilize and bring peace to the region, India assured that it will continue to support Afghanistan to bring “peace, security and stability” in the region.

As a contiguous neighbour, India will continue to extend all support to the Government and people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future where the interest of all sections of Afghan society are protected.

– Raveesh Kumar, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson

India very subtly put forth its stronghold against Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on the international front by saying that India is Afghanistan’s contiguous neighbor, referring to the Wakhan border, located in PoK, that connects India and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan appreciated India’s efforts to connect to the Middle East regions by developing Chabahar Port. It also recognized India’s efforts to establish ties with Afghanistan by developing Air Freight Corridors between various cities of India and Afghanistan, and undertaking road projects in Bamyan and Mazar-e-Sharif regions.

It remains to be seen how Pakistan is affected by this deal. Pakistan, who was the deal broker in this case, has disputes with Afghanistan over the Durand Line.

Pakistan had fulfilled its part of the responsibility in terms of facilitating this peace agreement. Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours.

– Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistani Foreign Minister

As India ushers in an era without a US-Taliban war, it also remains a question on how will US back Afghanistan and Pakistan and how will India’s relationship with US be defined in the coming times.

Curiopedia

The September 11 attacks(also referred to as 9/11) were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks resulted in 2,977 victim fatalities, over 25,000 injuries, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Additional people have died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks.

Four passenger airliners operated by two major U.S. passenger air carriers were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan. Within an hour and 42 minutes, both 110-story towers collapsed. Debris and the resulting fires caused a partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures. A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, was crashed into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense), which led to a partial collapse of the building’s west side. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was initially flown toward Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after its passengers thwarted the hijackers. 9/11 is the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed, respectively. More Info

The Durand Line divides the Pashtun and Baloch people. It continues to be a source of tension between the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In August 2007, Pakistani politician and the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Fazal-ur-Rehman, urged Afghanistan to recognise the Durand Line. Press statements from 2005 to 2007 by former Pakistani President Musharraf calling for the building of a fence on the Durand Line have been met with resistance from numerous Pashtun political parties within Afghanistan. Pashtun politicians in Afghanistan strenuously object to even the existence of the Durand Line border.

Foes no more? US-Taliban close to Peace Deal

taliban

The Taliban, the United States and Afghan security forces have raised hopes for a resolution to the 18-year-long war after a week-long reduction in violence on last Friday. Reports suggest that the agreement between US and Taliban representatives promises to secure a peace deal on February 29, that can lead to a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

Crux of the Matter

Checkered Past
The Taliban has been fighting the US-led forces in Afghanistan since it was toppled from power in 2001. USA had attacked Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks to find the mastermind Osama bin Laden, who was later found and eliminated in Pakistan. More than 100,000 Afghans have been killed or injured since 2009 when the United Nations Assistance Mission began documenting casualties.

The peace talks were launched in 2018 as part of a push by US President Donald Trump’s administration to strike a deal with the Taliban, as he seeks re-election in 2020. The two sides were on the verge of signing a peace agreement in September when Trump abruptly cancelled the talks after a Taliban attack killed an American soldier.

The Negotiation That Can Change It All
The deal is expected to outline the withdrawal of US troops and a guarantee that Afghan soil will not be used as a launchpad to conduct attacks on foreign countries. Currently, 14,000 US troops and some 17,000 troops from 39 NATO allies and partner countries are stationed in Afghanistan in a non-combatant role.

The Potential Peacemakers
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that upon successful implementation of this agreement, the US would move to sign a peace deal with the Taliban on February 29.

Soon after, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the development and said both sides will invite senior representatives to take part in the peace deal “signing ceremony”. In a televised address, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the reduction in violence (RIV) would begin at midnight local time on Friday (19:30 GMT).

Curiopedia

The Taliban are one of the mujahideen (“holy warriors” or “freedom fighters”) groups that formed during the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-89). After the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Soviet-backed government lost ground to the mujahideen. In 1992, Kabul was captured and an alliance of mujahideen set up a new government with Burhanuddin Rabbani as interim president. However, the various factions were unable to cooperate and fell to fighting each other. Afghanistan was reduced to a collection of territories held by competing warlords. Most of the Taliban’s leaders were educated in Pakistan, in refugee camps where they had fled with millions of other Afghans after the Soviet invasion. Pakistan’s Jami’at-e ‘Ulema-e Islam (JUI) political party provided welfare services, education, and military training for refugees in many of these camps. More Info