US-Taliban deal: American lawmakers skeptical of Taliban adhering to its commitment
Washington, Mar 1 : American lawmakers have described the landmark US-Taliban peace deal as a step in the right direction to bring peace in war-torn Afghanistan, but expressed skepticism over the Afghan militant group adhering to its commitment.
The deal signed by Special US Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Baradar in the presence of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Doha Saturday facilitates intra-Afghan dialogue in Oslo this month and the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan in 14 months.
“I am very suspect of the Taliban ever accepting the Afghan Constitution and honouring the rights of religious minorities and women. Time will tell if reconciliation in Afghanistan can be accomplished with honour and security, but after more than 18 years of war, it is time to try,” Senator Lindsey Graham said.
“I will support any reasonable effort to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan… However, any peace agreement must be sustainable, honourable and include protections for the American homeland against international terrorist organisations that are alive and well in Afghanistan,” Graham said.
Noting that a reduction of US forces to around 8,600 is warranted, given the current situation on the ground, Graham said that any further reductions, however, must be conditions-based and assume that the capabilities of the Afghan security forces are sufficient to protect the Afghan people, the American homeland, and allies.
Graham also said that one should not forget that Afghanistan is the place where the planning and execution of the 9/11 began. The Taliban provided safe haven to al-Qaeda, paving the way for the deadly 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Congressman Michael McCaul, lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said moving forward, a constructive dialogue between the Taliban, the Afghan government and other representatives from the Afghan society, including women, will be an important test for the viability of this significant effort for a lasting peace.
“The US will be working hand-in-hand with the international community during the next phase of this process. Ultimately, the success of this quest for peace depends on the Taliban upholding their commitments,” McCaul said.
“While I hope the Taliban live up to their end of the agreement, including cutting ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, I have serious reservations that they can act as legitimate partners,” McCaul said.
Congressman Markwayne Mullin said that now it’s up to the Afghan people to take control of their country and ensure it’s not a safe haven for terrorists.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the deal to set the stage for dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government is a step in the right direction.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith said this agreement marks a beginning, not an end. There is still much work to be done to ensure safety and stability in Afghanistan and the region, particularly through continued investments by the State Department and USAID, he said.
“While I support a potential drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan, any reduction must be carefully executed to ensure stability in the region,” Smith.
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said the announcement of the deal is a positive step, but the Taliban must prove to the world they are ready for peace.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton said that signing the deal with the Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population.
“This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally,” he said.
As welcome as peace in Afghanistan would be, it is hard to believe it is at hand, said Richard Haas, who heads the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.
“I see no mention of Taliban disarmament or closing its Pakistan sanctuary. The risk is the US removes capabilities in the long-shot hope the Taliban will change its ways,” he said.
Vikram J Singh, who was Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department until 2011, said lasting peace in Afghanistan is more possible today than at any time since the Bonn agreement set up a government that excluded the Taliban in 2002.
“Afghans have seen peace talks over decades, always followed by a return to war. So everyone should be clear-eyed: there is a long road ahead,” he said.
“It’s way too early to tell, but lasting peace is more possible today than at anytime since the Bonn agreement set up a government that excluded the Taliban in 2002,” said Singh.
“The risk of failure is still high. We have to hope they (Afghans) can come together and build a new political order that holds the country together and avoids civil war,” Singh said.
Responding to a question, Singh said Pakistan finally got out of the way and ensured the Taliban could engage in these talks.
“Pakistan retains the ability to either support or undermine any future deal, and Islamabad will be sure its interests are represented in any talks through Taliban negotiators. We have to hope that Pakistan’s leaders are satisfied by having Taliban members included in an new, independent and sovereign Afghanistan,” he noted.
India, Singh observed, has long been skeptical that any deal with the Taliban would be worth the paper on which it was written.
“The Taliban, after all, remain a reactionary and extreme Islamist movement. India can be a strong voice now for the Afghan government and all Afghans who want a modern state with equal rights for all citizens,” he said.
“As with all insurgencies, all the Taliban really needed was to not lose. With Pakistan’s sanctuary, economic support from the Gulf, and local support in their communities, the Taliban showed they could hold on indefinitely. Indian leaders recognize this, and they know that even though Americans and Afghans welcome peace, they all feel this a bittersweet way toward ending this war,” Singh said.
Pakistan’s former envoy to the US Husain Haqqani said the US-Taliban pact is not a peace deal, but it is about withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
“It will most likely prove to be similar to the Paris Peace Accords over Vietnam signed in 1973. That agreement facilitated US withdrawal but did not stop the Viet Cong and North Vietnam from marching into Saigon two years later,” said Haqqani.
Will be meeting Taliban leaders soon: Trump
Washington, Mar 1 : US President Donald Trump on Saturday said he planned to meet Taliban leaders in the “not-too-distant future”, asserting that it was time that the war against terrorism was fought by someone else, particularly the countries in the region.
“I will be meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not-too-distant future. And we will be very much hoping that they will be doing what they say they are going to be doing: they will be killing terrorists. They will be killing some very bad people. They will keep that fight going,” Trump told reporters at a White House press conference.
“We have had tremendous success in Afghanistan in the killing of terrorists, but it is time, after all these years, to go and bring our people back home. We want to bring our people back home,” the president said hours after the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban in Doha, under which it has committed to withdrawing all its troops from Afghanistan in 14 months’ time.
“We just signed an agreement that puts us in a position to get it done, bring us down to in the vicinity of 8,000 troops. The United Nations was informed of everything,” Trump said.
The US currently has some 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.
The president said it had been a long journey in Afghanistan.
“It’s been a very long journey. It’s been a hard journey for everybody. We are, very largely, a law enforcement group. And that is not what our soldiers are all about. They are fighters. They are the greatest fighters in the world,” he said.
“As you know, we have destroyed, in Syria and Iraq, 100 per cent of the ISIS caliphate. One hundred per cent. We have thousands of prisoners. We have killed ISIS fighters by the thousands and, likewise, in Afghanistan. But now it is time for somebody else to do that work and that will be the Taliban and it could be the surrounding countries. There are many countries that surround Afghanistan that can help. We are 8,000 miles away,” Trump said.
“So we will be bringing it down to 8,000 to approximately 8,600 — in that vicinity — and then we will make our final decision (at) some point in the fairly near future. But this was a very spirited agreement. There was a lot of talk. There was a lot of everything. They have been trying to get this for many years,” he said.
The president said he really believed that the Taliban wanted to do something to show that they were not wasting time.
“If bad things happen, we will go back. I let the people know: we will go back and we will go back so fast, and we will go back with a force like nobody has ever seen. I do not think that will be necessary. I hope it is not necessary,” he said.
Responding to a question, Trump said the Taliban wanted this to happen.
“The Taliban wanted it to happen. President (Ashraf) Ghani was very much involved in this, as you know. And he is now dealing with the Taliban,” he said.
The Taliban, Trump said, had given a very strong pledge.
“We will see how that works out. We hope it is going to work out very well. I think they have big incentives to do it, but they have to take care of the terrorists and kill the terrorists. We will be working in a different kind of a fashion toward that end.
“But the job we have done has been a fantastic one in terms of terrorists and terrorism, and it is time for our people to start coming home,” he added.