AFGHANISTAN: US, Taliban Officials Agree to ‘Peace’ Plan as Fighting Resumes

Photo: US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (left) and Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (right)

By Sherman Cox and Ben Robinson

On Monday, reports emerged that fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces resumed, just two days after the US government signed a ‘peace’ deal with the Taliban, aiming for a near-total US withdrawal and a cessation of hostilities. US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the Taliban’s founders and chief negotiators, signed the agreement with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a witness in Doha, Qatar.

Under the pretext of combating ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to further its own interests in the region. The Taliban refused to capitulate to US imperialism, became the main anti-imperialist force in Afghanistan, waging a prolonged war from the countryside against the US forces.

The US has made few gains since its initial invasion 18 years ago. In fact, the Taliban won a string of victories in 2018 and 2019 that pressured the US to sue for peace. However, while there was some limited progress towards negotiations in 2019, ‘peace’ talks were frozen in September after US President Donald Trump ended negotiations over a Taliban bombing which killed a US soldier.

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Infographic from Aljazeera depicting territorial control

Ultimately the US, unable to improve its military position, has conceded that a military victory is impossible and that the immense financial costs to continue the war were not worth the results.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Taliban will not allow al-Qaeda or any other ‘terrorist’ groups within the territory it controls. In return, US will reduce its troops from 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days, and will withdraw the rest within 14 months, with NATO allies withdrawing troops at a proportionate rate.

Another term of the agreement includes the exchange of 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 captured Afghan security forces by March 10, the date which ‘peace’ negotiations are set to begin between the Taliban and Afghan puppet government. Less than 24 hours after the deal was signed however, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who was not included in the US-Taliban ‘peace’ talks, declared, “there is no commitment to releasing 5,000 prisoners.”

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announces that the government has not agreed to release Taliban prisoners as a precondition for ‘peace’ talks

Taliban officials have now announced that they will not take part in the scheduled negotiations with the Afghan government until the 5,000 prisoners are released.

Despite the lingering tensions between the Taliban and Afghan security forces, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters on Monday that he has given the US commander in Afghanistan approval to begin the withdrawal of US troops in the region. Statements from US officials indicate that they plan to push ahead with the ‘peace’ process despite the reported resumption of firefights, largely motivated by the US failure to make gains in against the Taliban, unable to accomplish anything but mass carnage.

For an entire generation, imperialist war has ravaged the people of Afghanistan, raining hellfire on their homes and murdering tens of thousands. Although the US is beginning the process of formally withdrawing troops, the presence of US imperialism will continue through the Afghan puppet government and US finance capital, and resistance to US imperialism will also rage on.