LAST week the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said Washington is not seeking a permanent military presence in Afghanistan, after the Taliban said it was close to finalising a peace agreement with the United States.
Yesterday Washington’s top negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad confirmed that the US will withdraw 5,400 troops from Afghanistan within 20 weeks as part of a deal reached, in principle, with the Taliban.
The deal awaits final approval from US President Donald Trump who is said to be determined to get out of Afghanistan. After his approval, the deal will be shown to the current Afghan puppet government, whose fate has been sealed by it.
At the same time as Khalilzad revealed the peace deal, a huge blast rocked the capital to celebrate the news. The Taliban confirmed it was behind the attack, which used a bomb strapped to a tractor to kill at least 16 people and injure another 119 just outside Kabul’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.
The deal outlined by Khalilzad is the product of nine rounds of peace talks that have been held in the Gulf state of Qatar. In exchange for the US troop withdrawal, the Taliban will ensure that Afghanistan is never again used as a base for militant groups seeking to attack the US and its allies.
‘We have agreed that if the conditions proceed according to the agreement, we will leave within 135 days five bases in which we are present now,’ Khalilzad said. The US currently has about 14,000 troops in the country.
A Taliban spokesman confirmed that the details of the troop withdrawal as outlined by Khalilzad were correct. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is to study the deal – which he played no part in drawing up – before giving his opinion, his spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said earlier on Monday.
The US has learnt its Afghan lesson the hard way. The US occupation of Afghanistan began when the US launched air strikes one month following the 11 September 2001 attacks, after the Taliban had refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden.
The US-UK forces were joined by an international coalition and the Taliban were quickly removed from power. The real war then started as the Taliban turned into a deadly insurgent force, destabilising subsequent Afghan governments and killing thousands of allied troops.
The international coalition ended its combat mission in 2014, staying only to train Afghan forces. But the US continued its own scaled-back, but still massive, air strikes.
The Taliban have however proved to be unconquerable. Nearly 3,500 members of the international coalition forces have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, more than 2,300 of them American.
In a February 2019 report, the UN said that more than 32,000 civilians had died. The Watson Institute at Brown University said that 58,000 Afghan security personnel and 42,000 opposition combatants have been killed.
The US chief negotiator, after making the deal with the Taliban, held separate talks with Afghan government leaders, President Ashraf Ghani, and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and then met them together on Monday.
Presidential spokesman Sediqqi said Ghani ‘has seen’ the agreement and ‘key details’ of the document were shared with him. After his first sight of the deal Sediqqi said: ‘We will consult and comprehensively study this document and will try to formulate our observation based on our national interests.’
The US envoy also held talks with former president Hamid Karzai, former vice president Mohammad Younus Qanooni, and other politicians in Kabul to outline the peace agreement in which they played no part.
The Afghan conflict has cost more than 2,300 American lives and hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars. US imperialism is quitting Afghanistan having lost the war as it did earlier in Vietnam. President Trump and his military now seem to be convinced that the US must avoid another land war in Asia like it would the plague. It has learnt a hard lesson!