Tentative peace deal to provide path for US forces pullout

By: Monitoring Desk

KABUL: In an interview with the NPR, a US independent and nonprofit media organization, Vikram Singh, former US deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a former defense negotiator said that a tentative deal between the U.S. and the Taliban could provide a path for American forces to leave Afghanistan.
Hinting to tentative deals with the Taliban, Singh said he was thinking that the last agreement has been manifestly different and that the United States is obviously behind it. “The Taliban have said that they have reached an agreement that they’re comfortable with, and the Afghan government has also said that it’s comfortable with moving forward. So, assuming this seven-day period of a reduction in violence starts and holds, it looks like we are closer to a real deal than we’ve been before. So, I’d say I’m the most cautiously optimistic I’ve been in a long time.”
Replying to an NPR question that the terms of this deal seem to give the Taliban a lot of legitimacy and power over Afghanistan’s fate, the former US deputy envoy said: “I think it’s an admission of two things. One is that the politics of the situation, going back to 2002, when the Taliban were excluded from the Bonn negotiations on what would happen to Afghanistan after that initial war when they were ousted – the politics have meant that they’ve always wanted the United States to basically be the guarantor of their ability to be at the table in some future dispensation.”
According to him, the other thing was power, adding that essentially, they’ve managed to not lose, which is really all an insurgent group needs to do. “And by not losing for long enough, they’ve shifted the dynamics and made it so that they really do have some say. And the question is, are they really willing to compromise with other Afghans to have a peaceful future for that country?”
Answering another question that the Taliban says under this deal, it would break with al-Qaida, he said that one of the really difficult things was that evidence is hard to come by. “And one of the best ways to get evidence is to test something like this. And so we have a test that if this moves forward, we’ll see for the first time whether both they have the command and control they claim to have and also whether there’s a willingness to do what it takes to sever any ties to terrorist groups that are operating in their territory. It seems that they’ve – at least at some points – taken arms up against groups like ISIS. But it’s – you know, it’s a pretty murky picture. But giving a peace process a chance is the best way to test those propositions.”
“Today, Afghanistan announced that President Ashraf Ghani narrowly won reelection. But his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, is contesting the results, saying he’ll form a parallel government. So how does a government that fractured effectively negotiate with the Taliban?,” the Singh was asked by the NPR, where he said that they have witnessed a unity government because the last elections were contested. “The elections before that were contested. And it’s probably good that the election is – has ended. And whether they agree or don’t agree on this final outcome, if there’s a way to get them all to the table with the Taliban, they’ll be talking about the thing that’s most important for Afghanistan’s future, which is ending 40 years of war.”
Referring to another question that if this deal sticks, what that means for a future U.S. role in Afghanistan?, Singh said that the announced troop reduction the United States seems like it was going to make anyway also seems to be the down payment for this deal.
“So, if it moves forward, the United States will be on track to reduce about 5,000 troops. The more important question over the long term is going to be development assistance and continued investment in Afghan institutions by not just the United States, but the international community. Afghanistan as a modern state has never survived without patronage. It’s landlocked, and it needs external support in order to function, and will for quite some time. And one of the questions now is, are world powers ready to stand by Afghanistan even if it – as it moves towards peace?”

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