US and Taliban signed deal to end 18-year Afghan war

US and Taliban signed deal to end 18-year Afghan war
US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar signed the deal. Source: Reuters
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Daily US Times, Doha: After more than 18 years of fighting, the US has signed a “comprehensive peace agreement” with Taliban to end Afghan war. Under the deal, the US and Nato allies have agreed to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal.

Mike Pompeo, the Secretary State of the US and leaders of the militant group attended the signing ceremony in Doha in Qatar. Under the agreement, Taliban agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.

President Donald Trump said the US was “working to finally end America’s longest war and bring our troops back home”.

The US invaded Afghanistan weeks after the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda group attacked New York’s Twin Tower, which killed about 3,000 people and injured 6 thousand others.

More than 2,400 US soldiers have been killed in this long war. About 12,000 more currently staying in the country. Ending Afghan war was one of Trump’s election promises.

What happened in Doha?

The agreement between the US and Taliban was signed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, while Mr Pompeo presented there as a witness.

Mr Pompeo urged Taliban to keep their promises to cut ties with al-Qaeda and Mr Baradar expressed his hope that Afghanistan could now emerge from four decades of conflict.

“I hope that with the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan the Afghan nation under an Islamic regime will take its relief and embark on a new prosperous life,” said Mr Baradar.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Mark Espar was in Kabul with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani – whose government did not take part in the US-Taliban talks.

“This is a hopeful moment, but it is only the beginning. The road ahead will not be easy,” said Mr Esper, ”Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan will require patience and compromise among all parties.”

He said the US would continue to support the Afghan government. Mr Ghani said his country is “looking forward to a full ceasefire” and ready to negotiate with the Taliban.

What’s in the agreement?

Under the agreement, the US will reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 in the first 135 days. Allies are also drawing down their forces proportionately.

The deal is a political win for Mr Trump as he can now show that he has brought troops home and started process to end the long lasting Afghan war ahead of the US presidential election in November.

The deal also allows a prisoner swap. By 10 March, some 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners would be exchanged. Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are due to start at that time.

The US will also lift sanctions against the Taliban and will work with the UN to lift its separate sanctions against the group.

Some consider the deal could worsen the situation for women in Afghanistan.

Activist Zahra Husseini expressed her concern, “I don’t trust the Taliban, and remember how they suppressed women when they were ruling.”

“Today is a dark day, and as I was watching the deal being signed, I had this bad feeling that it would result in their return to power rather than in peace,” the 28-year-old told AFP.

US and Taliban sign peace deal to withdraw troops