• Guillermo D. Olmo @BBCgolmo
  • BBC News World

The script for the vertiginous recovery of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban was conceived long before the capture of Kabul on August 15.

On February 29, 2020, the United States government, chaired by Donald Trump, and the Taliban signed in Doha, Qatar, the agreement that set a timetable for the definitive withdrawal of the United States and its allies after almost 20 years of conflict.

In return, the Taliban’s commitment was signed not to allow Afghan territory to be used to plan or carry out actions that threatened the security of the United States.

It was officially called the Agreement to Bring Peace to Afghanistan, although at the moment its only observable result is the fall of the Afghan government, with the departure of the president. Ashraf Ghani of the country, and the fear that the Taliban will restore the fundamentalist regime that they imposed in Afghanistan before the western invasion.

Many experts believe that the return of the Taliban is a consequence of the Doha Agreement. “That was not a peace agreement, it was a surrender,” he told BBC Mundo. Husain Haqqani, Director for Central and South Asia at the Hudson Institute and former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States.

What was agreed in Doha

The agreement set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from the United States and its international allies within 14 months of the agreement being announced.

Washington also promised to lift the sanctions it had imposed on Taliban leaders.

In return, Washington obtained a pledge that the Taliban would not “allow any of its members, or other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use Afghan territory to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

Likewise, it was established that the Taliban and the Afghan government would then start the so-called negotiations between Afghans, which should lead to a ceasefire and a definitive agreement on the political future of the country.

The Taliban included at the end of the negotiation the demand for a prisoner release agreement, which was finally included. Up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan government officials held by the Taliban would be released.

What went wrong in the Doha Agreement

For Laurel Miller, a retired US diplomat and director of the Asia Program at the International Crisis Group, a think tank, “nothing that is happening is surprising.”

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Haqqani, for his part, assures that “the only thing the Taliban agreed to was a US withdrawal.”

“They said, ‘Okay, we will start a dialogue with the Afghan government.’ But they never took it seriously.

The fact is that the Afghan government fell before the dialogue with the Taliban produced the planned ceasefire and a final agreement. And the violence even escalated in the months after the agreement, according to some observers, due to the Taliban’s interest in controlling as much territory as possible and gaining strength in the face of these inconclusive negotiations.

The Doha Agreement was based on the premise, repeated by the government of Joe Biden and of his predecessor, Donald Trump, that it would be the Afghan security forces that would take control of the situation after the western withdrawal.

But the Afghan capitals have been falling into the hands of the Taliban in recent days with little resistance from state forces, in whose training and equipment the United States has invested millions of dollars in recent years.

The Taliban now control almost the entire country.

According to anonymous military sources cited by the newspaper The Washington PostMany Afghan military and police commanders agreed to surrender to the Taliban in exchange for money, once the Doha Agreement made it clear that the withdrawal of US forces was imminent.

One of the great concerns now is what will happen to the Afghans, since it is feared that they will again suffer the discrimination and sexist violence that were the keynote in the Taliban regime of the 1990s.

The Doha Agreement does not mention anything about them, nor does it oblige the Taliban to respect human rights.

Suhail Saheen, a spokesman for the Taliban, told the BBC that in the new Afghanistan “women can have access to education and work.”

The analyst Haqqani warns, however, that you can never trust “the word of the Taliban: they always take their promises to courts that are governed by their interpretation of Islam.”

Afghan screams in a van.
Many Afghans fear the return of the Taliban to power and have tried to leave Afghanistan.

Haqqani believes that “it is only a matter of time before the threat of terrorist actions from Afghanistan that Western countries fear materializes” and regrets that the Doha Agreement does not include any mechanism to ensure that, indeed, the Taliban fulfill their commitment not to allow for Afghanistan to become a terrorist base.

He is one of those who fears that among the 5,000 prisoners released under the Doha Agreement there may be members of jihadist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State or the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, which targets the Chinese region of Xinjiang. where Uighurs, a minority of Muslim Chinese, live.

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How the Doha Agreement was reached

The invasion of Afghanistan was part of the “war on terror” declared by former US President George W. Bush after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Afghanistan of the Taliban was one of the bases of Al-Qaeda and US intelligence located there and in neighboring Pakistan the main headquarters of its leader’s operations, Osama Bin Laden.

His actions against American and Western interests were later joined by those of the self-described Islamic State.

When Trump came to the White House in 2017, he did so on a promise to end America’s “never-ending wars.”

In 2018, talks began with the Taliban to end a conflict in which more than 2,400 US military personnel and more than 32,000 Afghan civilians have died.

US military at the burial of a dead man in Afghanistan.
More than 2,400 US servicemen have died in Afghanistan.

Trump tasked the United States special envoy in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khaliljad, with negotiating an agreement with the Taliban in Doha, where much of the Taliban leadership, led by From Abdul Ghani Baradar.

The negotiations were interrupted several times and Trump came to consider the agreement “dead”, but finally Washington ended up accepting the Taliban demand that the Afghan government be withdrawn from the negotiations and that unblocked the dialogue.

When he announced the deal, Trump warned: “If things go wrong, we will come back with a force like never seen before.”

His successor in the White House, Biden, decided to accelerate the withdrawal and, despite the images of the last hours, has reaffirmed his decision to end “the longest war in the United States.”

For the newspaper archives, there will be words like that of the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, after the announcement of the Doha Agreement: “We will only leave when the conditions are right.”

Also those of the Afghan activist Zahra Husseini, who told AFP: “As I watched it being signed, I had this bad feeling that it would lead to the return of the Taliban to power and not to peace.”



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