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Thursday, May 28, 2020, 08:12 (GMT+7)
A chance of peace for Afghanistan

After a long time of negotiation, on 29 February 2020 in Doha (Qatar), the U.S and Taliban reached a historic agreement about Afghanistan (the Doha Agreement). Analysts hold that this agreement is a historic political document, opening up the prospect of peace after the nearly-20-year war in this South Asian country.

In October 2001, the U.S and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) kicked off their global anti-terrorism war with military operations in Afghanistan in a bid to overthrow the Taliban Government which was considered by the U.S as the supporter of Al-Qaeda, the notorious terrorist network which caused the deadly terrorist attacks in the U.S on 11th September 2001. Since then, nearly 20 years have gone by but remnants of Taliban are still carrying out guerilla war causing much trouble for the U.S and NATO. According to statistics of the U.S Department of Defense, the war in Afghanistan caused more than 2,400 U.S troops dead and wounded tens of thousands other; cost thousands of billions of dollars. Afghanistan War has become the longest one ever conducted by the U.S in its history.

Trump’s effort for troop withdrawals out of Afghanistan “quagmire”

After taking office, in August 2017, U.S President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan – supposedly the key step to realize his promise made with his voters prior to the election that he would bring U.S troops back home from unnecessary “flashpoints”. Accordingly, his strategy focuses on two main aspects: (1) Continuing to support for Afghanistan Government of President Ashraf Ghani; (2) Yielding a military advantage on the battlefield to defeat or force Taliban to come to peace talks to end the conflict.

Implementing the strategy, the U.S Government increased economic, political and military supports to consolidate the government of President Ashraf Ghani. Economically, the U.S urged its allies and regional countries to provide financial aids for Kabul under the name of “reconstruction” to shoulder the burden with Washington. In terms of military, together with increasing thousands of troops in support for Afghanistan Government, the U.S also strengthened the deployment of Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV) equipped with “smart” rockets to carry out decisive attacks into the crucial targets of Taliban. In addition, the White House has increased consultancy by means of advisors for the government and ministries of Afghanistan, and provided training for its security force. With the help of the U.S and its allies, Afghanistan Military successfully liberated a number of important areas previously controlled by Taliban, and the country’s security forces have become capable of safeguarding their own security as they are now more fully equipped and reach higher operational levels. President Ashraf Ghani was reelected in a convincing victory in the Presidential election in late September 2019. International experts pointed out that the strategic goals that President Donald Trump is aiming for Afghanistan is to build a government, with the support of the U.S, capable of “standing on their own feet”. This is the utmost important pre-condition for the U.S president to withdraw troops but still ensure its interests in a country of strategically crucial location. However, whether the government of President Ashraf Ghani is able to take over the responsibility handed over by the U.S or not is still unsure and this may become a game of luck for President Donald Trump as his term will end soon.

A chance of peace for Afghanistan

Since 2019, the U.S and Taliban have resumed talks in a bid to seek a political solution for the conflict in Afghanistan. After several days of intense negotiation, even impasse at times, on 29th February 2020, in Doha, with the presence of leaders of over 30 countries, representatives of the U.S and Taliban signed a historic agreement (Doha Agreement), ruling that: the U.S would reduce its forces from 13,000 troops at present to 8,600 in 135 days after the signing of the Agreement and would withdraw all of its troops out of the Afghanistan territory within 14 months; consider and urge the UN Security Council to gradually remove their sanctions against Taliban’s individuals. In return, Taliban pledged not to conduct any terrorist attack in Afghanistan territory and the areas controlled by them; Taliban will not allow any organisations and individuals, including Al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) use Afghanistan as a springboard to infringe the U.S and it allies’ security. Regarding prisoner swap, Kabul Government will release more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and Taliban will return over 1,000 prisoners to Kabul. Taliban also accepts to talk about reconciliation and restoring peace in Afghanistan with Kabul Government which they resolutely refused previously.

The nearly-2-decade war in Afghanistan represented not only a “nightmare” for the U.S but also a regional and world “flashpoint”. According to the statistics of international reports, Afghanistan War has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, severely damaged the country and made thousands of people homeless. On the other hand, it has been shown in reality that the U.S, Taliban and other stakeholders can’t solve the conflict in Afghanistan by military measures but peaceful means. According to analysts, the signing of the Doha Agreement is attributed firstly to the goodwill and remarkable effort made by both the U.S and Taliban. Though not being able to settle all the issues, the agreement basically meets the key and strategic expectations of the involving parties. The U.S can withdraw their troops out of Afghanistan “quagmire” in honour while being ensured that terrorist groups will not use Afghanistan territory to threaten the U.S and its allies’ security again. The agreement also adds a plus for Trump’s foreign policies prior to the U.S Presidential election in late 2020. As for Taliban, the agreement serves as an international basis for its legality and they will no longer be considered as terrorists. More importantly, the U.S commits to withdraw all of their troops out of Afghanistan. International observers hold that Doha Agreement is a historic document, opening up prospect for ending the conflict and the establishment of perpetual peace in Afghanistan.

Challenges ahead

Though welcoming the commitments in the deal, world politicians expressed their concern that the agreement is just the beginning of a long road ahead with several challenges. The agreement can break down at any time as the war in Afghanistan has lasted for nearly two decades, hatred and contradictions between parties can’t be solved easily. This comment was proved when on 4th March 2020 (only 4 days after the signing of the Agreement), the U.S carried out a number of airstrikes on the Taliban remnants in retaliation for Taliban’s attacks into Afghanistan Military installations. The Pentagon’s officials affirmed that Taliban must obey the agreement and the U.S would only withdraw their troops according to Taliban’s observance of the agreement. In contrast, Taliban demanded that the U.S respect and adhere to the commitments reached in the agreement. This shows that between these two rivals, there remains a strong suspicion that can’t be solved immediately. Besides, Taliban and Afghanistan Government have yet to agree on the prisoner swap mentioned in the agreement. Taliban opposed to Afghanistan’s plan to divide the release of Taliban’s war prisoners into two phases (1,500 prisoners for the first phase and another 3,500 for the second phase) and said this is a breach of the Agreement, pushing prisoner swap between the two sides into impasse. Many experts hold that as long as this impasse remains unsolved, the goal of national reconciliation is still out of reach. Furthermore, though being a major figure in the political arena, President Ashraf Ghani was mentioned in the Agreement as just a “supporting actor”.

In addition to that, the rivalry for power between the re-elected President Ashraf Ghani and his opponent A. Abdullah who also announced victory in the latest election and decided to establish his own government not only pushed this country into a new political crisis but also hindered the peace progress. On 22nd March 2020, Afghanistan Government and Taliban began their first talk about prisoner swap – the key step to restart the peace process in this South Asian country. However, from 23rd March to 29th March 2020, Taliban conducted over 300 attacks in several provinces and cities of Afghanistan, including Kabul and its western city of Herat. These bloody attacks have cast a shadow on the diplomatic efforts aiming at resuming peace talks between Afghanistan Government and Taliban.

International opinion holds that stakeholders should make the most of the opportunities generated from the Doha Agreement and respect international law, independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as the legitimate right to live in peace of Afghanistan people to promote national reconciliation, build a unified government capable of leading the country. Only by this way, may Doha Agreement become a “historic political document”, ending the war in Afghanistan which have lasted nearly 20 years, and perpetual peace be restored in the country for its reconstruction and development.

MINH DUC

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