A peace deal between the United States and its once sworn enemy the Taliban has been sealed in twin ceremonies, in which the US has agreed to wind down the war in Afghanistan after more than 18 years of fighting that turned into the longest conflict in American history, and to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan.
In the historic signing ceremony with the top US diplomat and the Taliban's second highest-ranking leader, the U.S. and the militant group agreed to begin to end America's longest war. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met a Taliban delegation during a historic moment which they shared a stage in Qatar's capital Doha. Pompeo, who called it "a momentous day", gave a list of pointers to the Taliban to follow to ensure success.
Included in the deal are the following key clauses:
- Complete withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in 14 months
- Afghan govt to engage with United Nation Security Council to remove Taliban members from sanctions list by 29 May
- US to reduce troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days of - contingent on the Taliban's fulfilment of its commitments under the agreement
- US to refrain from use of force against territorial integrity of Afghanistan.
- US will not intervene in Afghanistan's domestic affairs
- US commits to seek annual funds to train, advice, equip Afghan security forces
The deal - signed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar - agrees to the complete withdrawal of US and NATO troops within 14 months, contingent on Taliban following through with its own side of the deal. The US has also agreed to refrain from the use of force against Afghanistan or intervening in its domestic affairs. It has also committed to seeking annual funds to train, advise and equip Afghan security forces.
The agreement allows the US to immediately begin withdrawing some of its roughly 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, fulfilling a key campaign promise of President Donald Trump to start getting the U.S. out of “endless wars.” But it leaves many key details - including a lasting peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government, as well as the rights of women - for future negotiations. The deal - which followed a seven-day reduction in violence - is also expected to pave the way toward direct talks between Taliban officials and Afghan leaders in Oslo next month, according to Bloomberg.
Barring complications, US troop levels are expected to decline to about 8,600 within 135 days, with all troops being withdrawn within 14 months. Further declines depend on the Taliban fulfilling their agreement to engage in talks with Afghan officials and confront terrorists, according to U.S. officials.