By: Lailuma Noori
In the recent peace deal with the Taliban the US has committed to withdrawing from Afghanistan but in stages with continued withdrawal depending upon the Taliban meeting their responsibilities under the agreement. US wants to carry out withdrawal but keep US actions ongoing meanwhile
The US has to look after logistics for withdrawing but at the same time keep its operations carrying on successfully. US Centcom commander, General Frank McKenzie says that the plan is to shift combat operation to US special forces. Their ability to do this alone depends upon best-case scenarios.
Continued withdrawal dependent upon Taliban
The Taliban must continue with reduction in violence. There are likely to be some incidents as the Taliban has no control over some radical jihadists who may not recognize the US Taliban peace deal. The Taliban are also expected to make progress in intra-Afghan talks. This may be problematic as the Afghan government has had issues with the prisoner swap that was supposed to be a confidence building measure that would facilitate talks. So far it has done the opposite.
US could very well sabotage the deal with the Taliban
The US Taliban deal signed on Feb. 29 would see the withdrawal of all US forces within 14 months. Some US lawmakers are concerned that the Taliban could return to power and that this could give new life to terror groups in Afghanistan.
Also, Pentagon planners as well as lawmakers have expressed support for keeping a small counter-terrorism contingent in Afghanistan as a hedge on the Taliban reneging on their commitments outlined in the agreement. However, if the Taliban do not keep their commitments the US could easily claim that total withdrawal would not be carried out. If the Taliban do keep their agreements then the US must completely withdraw, otherwise they are violating the agreement in effect sabotaging it.
US adds provision to deal not agreed to by the Taliban
However, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the CENTCOM commander said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that even a small counter-terrorism operation below 8,600 troops would require major progress in intra-Afghan talks and integration between the Taliban and Afghan army.
However, should this happen then the US should be withdrawing entirely according to the agreement. There is nothing in the agreement about any residual counter-terrorism operation. McKenzie is in effect creating a new agreement that the Taliban never signed. This is a dangerous move that could see the agreement simply end.
McKenzie’s remarks suggest that the US sees the agreement as allowing it to keep some force in Afghanistan well beyond the 14-month pullout date for all troops to be withdrawn. Taliban reduction in violence could result in some bases being closed
McKenzie complained that the Taliban were not reducing their violence sufficiently: “I would not consider what the Taliban is doing as consistent with any path to going forward to come to a final end state agreement with the current government of Afghanistan. Those attacks are going to have to come off considerably … we need to get way below where we are now.”
These remarks leave out significant facts. The Taliban just resumed attacks on the Afghan government not foreign troops after the Afghan government refused to recognize the prisoner swap that was part of the deal. It considered the reduction in violence period over since the deal was not being honored by the government. However, the US reacted by defending the Afghan government against the Taliban which naturally the Taliban reacted to. It could be argued that it has been the Afghan and US actions that have caused the increase in violence. The US is now using that increase to sabotage the deal at the same time as they add terms to the agreement that were never there.