Another problem is that the last Afghan presidential elections were contested and led to a divided and dysfunctional government in Kabul. With two opponents declaring themselves victorious, no one is leading Kabul. Given that the next stage of the peace deal is being discussed between the Taliban and the Afghan government, a divided and fragmented government in Kabul complicates the next step. Although these leaders wield enormous power within the Taliban, they have little or no military experience and are therefore wary of commanders on the ground. These commanders are usually younger than the Quetta Shura, most often in the 20s and 30s. Many operate in remote and hostile areas of Afghanistan, with little connection or instruction from Taliban leaders in Quetta. After all, the real success of the Taliban is the military success of these local commanders in Afghanistan. Thanks to the work of these regional commanders, the Taliban now control nearly 50 percent of the Afghan landscape. They are at the heart of the Taliban and many have different views on what a peace agreement with the United States should be. There are a number of assumptions that the agreement makes, which are problematic. On the one hand, the Afghan government was not part of the negotiations or a signatory to the final agreement. Although U.S.
Ambassador Zalmay Khaililzad has worked to keep Afghan President Ashraf Ghani informed, the Afghan government has been increasingly alerted and resentful during the talks for being excluded from discussions about the future of his own country. The fact that the Afghan government or its representatives were not allowed to participate in the negotiations was at the request of the Taliban, who argued that the current government in Afghanistan was not a legitimate government, but a puppet of the United States. Whether this is true or not can be debated, but the Taliban have imposed themselves on this issue. Finally, the agreement stipulates that the United States will enter into diplomatic talks with the UN in order to remove Taliban members from the “sanctions list.” Since there is no clear winner in Kabul, there is no obvious party with which the Taliban could negotiate. Therefore, innerafghaese negotiations, which are essential for the next stage of peace-taking in Afghanistan, cannot take place. Initially, Afghan President Ghani hinted that he would not release Taliban prisoners, but until March 15, 2020, a few days after the start of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, he announced that he would release 1,500 Taliban prisoners. He also insisted that any released Taliban prisoner be obliged to sign an agreement committing not to return to combat. The Taliban have not yet accepted this compromise, so the talks necessary for the next stage of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government have not yet begun. But what happens next remains a problem. Although on March 18, 2020, the withdrawal of U.S.
troops from Afghanistan was temporarily halted due to the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. forces have already begun to leave the country. Some in the United States question the terms of the agreement and even call it a capitulation document. With a weak government in Kabul and with the departure of the U.S. of its troops who have provided support, some would say they supported the Kabul government, some fear that the Taliban will wait for U.S. troops to withdraw and then invade Kabul, as they did in 1995. If that happens, the 20 years of war and the loss of nearly 2,500 American lives will be in vain. Given that the agreement contains statements on various steps the Afghan government should take, their non-participation in the talks has created an obstacle to future negotiations and angered Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan officials. Concretely, in the agreement, the United States agreed that by the 10th up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be released by the Afghan government as a “confidence” between the Taliban and the Kabul government and the Taliban would release 1,000 prisoners they hold at the same time.
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