Washington signed a historic agreement with the extremist Taliban in Doha on Saturday to withdraw American soldiers from Afghanistan within a 14-month period, 18 years after the outbreak of the longest wars in US history.
The Afghans hope that the agreement will end four decades of conflict and open the door for dialogue between the Kabul government and the extremist movement with the aim of ending the suffering in the poor country.
US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, head of the movement’s political bureau, and its deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Brader, in the presence of US Secretary of State Mark Pompeo and representatives from dozens of countries, signed the agreement.
The two sides shook hands amid shouts of Allah Akbar among the Taliban representatives present.
According to a joint statement by Washington and Kabul, the United States and its allies will withdraw all forces from Afghanistan within 14 months if the Taliban adhere to the security guarantees stipulated in the Doha Agreement.
The American forces will immediately start the process of gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan after the signing of the historic agreement, with the number of soldiers decreasing from 13,000 to 8600 “within a few months”, according to the agreement.
“If the political solution fails and negotiations fail, nothing will force the United States to withdraw its soldiers,” a US official told AFP.
To coincide with the withdrawal process, unprecedented direct peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul authorities are expected to begin by March 10, to complement the agreement signed in Doha, according to US officials.
“The agreement provides for the date of 10 March, but we have to be realistic,” an official told AFP, while another official suggested that negotiations start in the first half of March and be held in Oslo.
According to the officials, the main challenge lies in the difficulty of forming a unified delegation that brings together the Afghan government, the opposition and civil society in light of the existing disputes over the results of the recent presidential elections.
The United States and the Taliban will exchange thousands of prisoners before launching the Afghan negotiations, according to the agreement.
The US Secretary of State urged the Taliban to keep their “promises to cut ties” with Al Qaeda and continue to fight the Islamic State.
“Keep your promises to sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations and continue to fight the Islamic State until victory over it,” Pompeo told representatives of the movement before signing the agreement at a luxury hotel in the Qatari capital.
The Taliban’s reception of Al Qaeda on Afghan soil was the main reason for the US invasion in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
An international coalition led by the United States expelled the movement from power after the attacks, and the rebels who had ruled Kabul from 1996 to October 2001 carried out continuous attacks that killed more than 2,400 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan security forces.
Washington has spent more than a billion dollars in the war that has killed and injured more than 100,000 Afghan civilians since 2009, according to United Nations figures.
For his part, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) welcomed the progress made towards achieving peace in Afghanistan and announced that the agreement between the Taliban and the United States would reduce the long-standing military presence in the country.
“The recent progress made towards achieving peace paves the way for reducing violence and for negotiations between the Afghan parties …
To reach a comprehensive peace agreement,” the alliance member states said in a statement.
“We call on the Taliban to seize this opportunity for peace,” the statement added.
He continued, “In this context, the coalition and its partners in the mission of resolute support will implement the amendments based on conditions, including reducing the level of our military presence.”
“NATO allies now expect to start talks inside Afghanistan that will lead to a permanent peace agreement that will end violence, protect human rights, uphold the rule of law and ensure that Afghanistan is not again a safe haven for terrorists,” the statement said.
This is the text of the joint declaration issued by the United States and Afghanistan, on Saturday, on peace in Afghanistan, ahead of the signing ceremony of a peace agreement between Washington and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The following is the text of the joint declaration:
A joint declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America for peace in Afghanistan – The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a member of the United Nations and recognized by the United States and the international community as a sovereign state under international law, and the United States of America, committed to work Together to reach a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement, it ends the war in Afghanistan for the benefit of all Afghans, and contributes to regional stability and global security.
The Comprehensive and Sustainable Peace Agreement will include 4 parts:
- Guarantees to prevent the use of Afghan territory by any international terrorist groups or individuals against the security of the United States and its allies.
- A timetable for the withdrawal of all United States and coalition forces from Afghanistan
- A political settlement resulting from dialogue between Afghans and negotiations with the Taliban and the comprehensive negotiating team for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
- A permanent and comprehensive cease-fire.
These four parts are interlinked; achieving peace after many years of fighting reflects the goals of all parties seeking to establish a sovereign state in Afghanistan, and in peace with itself and its neighbors.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States have been in close partnership since 2001 to respond to threats to international peace and security and to help the Afghan people chart a democratic and prosperous future.
The two countries are committed to their long-term relations and investment to build the Afghan institutions necessary to lay democratic foundations, protect and preserve the country’s unity, and promote social and economic progress and the rights of citizens.
The commitments set out here are made possible by these joint achievements.
Afghan and US security forces share a special bond that has been forged over many years of immense and courageous sacrifice.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan affirm their support for peace and their willingness to negotiate an end to this war.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan welcomes the “violence reduction” period and takes into account the Taliban-United States agreement, an important step towards ending the war.
The Taliban-United States of America agreement paves the way for negotiations between Afghans over a political settlement and a lasting and comprehensive ceasefire with the Taliban.
Moreover, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan reaffirms its continued commitment to prevent any terrorist groups or individuals, including Al Qaeda and ISIS, from using Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States, its allies, and other countries.
To expedite peace efforts, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan affirms its support for the gradual withdrawal of the United States and coalition forces, subject to the Taliban’s commitment to their obligations, under an agreement between the United States and the Taliban, and any agreement resulting from negotiations between Afghans.
Accordingly, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States have taken the following obligations:
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States recognize that Al Qaeda, ISIS and other international terrorist groups or individuals continue to use Afghan territory to recruit members, raise funds, train followers and plan, and attempt to launch Attacks threatening the security of the United States, the Allies, and Afghanistan.
To counter this continuing terrorist threat, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States will continue to take the following steps to defeat Al Qaeda, its affiliates, and other international terrorist groups and individuals:
- The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan reaffirms its continued commitment not to cooperate with or allow international terrorist groups or individuals to recruit, train, and raise funds (including through the production or distribution of drugs), transit Afghanistan or misuse of internationally recognized travel documents, or with other support activities in Afghanistan, or hosting them.
- The United States reaffirms its obligations to support Afghan security forces and other government institutions, including ongoing efforts to strengthen the capacity of Afghan security forces, to deter internal and external threats consistent with obligations under existing security agreements between the two government, the commitment includes supporting Afghan security forces to prevent Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other international terrorist groups or individuals from using Afghan territory to threaten the United States and its allies.
- The United States affirms its readiness to submit its military operations in Afghanistan with the consent of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in order to disrupt and limit the efforts of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other international terrorist groups or individuals to carry out attacks against the United States or its allies, and in line with its obligations under security agreements Existing between the two governments, and with the existing understandings, American counter-terrorism operations aim to continue and support Afghan security, with full respect for Afghan sovereignty and full respect for the safety and security of the Afghan people and the protection of civilians.
- The United States is committed to facilitating discussions between Afghanistan and Pakistan to make arrangements to ensure that the security of either country is not threatened, due to actions taken from the territory of the other side.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States consulted extensively on the levels of US and coalition forces, and the military activities necessary to achieve past commitments, including through support for the Afghan security and defense forces.
In addition, subject to the Taliban’s implementation of its obligations under the United States-Taliban agreement, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the United States, and the coalition jointly, assess the current levels of the military forces as no longer necessary to achieve security goals.
Since 2014, Afghan security forces have been at the forefront of providing security and increasing their effectiveness.
As such, the two parties are obligated to take the following measures:
- The United States will reduce the number of US military forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 and implement other obligations in the United States-Taliban agreement within 135 days of the date of this joint declaration and the United States-Taliban agreement, and will work with allies and alliances to reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over a period, a similar period, given that the Taliban fulfills its obligations under the United States-Taliban agreement.
- In line with the joint assessment and design between Afghanistan and the United States, the United States and its allies and coalition forces will continue to withdraw their remaining forces from Afghanistan within 14 months after the announcement of this joint declaration and the United States-Taliban agreement, and their forces will be from the remaining bases subject to Taliban implementation For its obligations under the American Taliban agreement.
- The United States of America affirms its commitment to seek funds annually, to support, train, equip, advise and maintain Afghan security forces, so that Afghanistan can independently defend itself against internal and external threats.
- To create the conditions for a political settlement and a lasting and sustainable ceasefire, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will participate in discussions facilitated by the United States with Taliban representatives on confidence-building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing large numbers of prisoners from both sides. The United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will seek to assist the ICRC to support this discussion.
- With the start of the Afghan internal negotiations, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is committed to the aggressive communication of the diplomat with the members of the UN Security Council to remove the Taliban members from the sanctions list, with the aim of achieving this goal by May 29, 2020 no later than 30 days after the completion of the framework and permanent agreement and stop Mass shooting.
- TheUnited States will ask the Security Council of the United Nations to recognize the ratification of this agreement and related arrangements.
- The United States and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are committed to continuing the positive relations, including economic cooperation for reconstruction.
- The United States will refrain from threatening or using force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Afghanistan or interfering in its internal affairs.
- The United States will continue to work to build a regional and international consensus to support the ongoing effort to achieve a political settlement to the main conflict in Afghanistan.