Bringing peace to Afghanistan . . .
Last week, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan. Under the agreement the U.S. will reduce its troop levels in Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days and will withdraw its remaining forces within 14 months if the Taliban upholds a series of commitments, including preventing any group or individual, including al-Qa’ida, from using Afghanistan to threaten the security of the U.S. and its allies. Further, the agreement enables the swap of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners by March 10, 2020 – the first day of an intra-Afghan dialogue to determine the formation of a new Afghan government.
China cautiously endorses deal . . .
Despite U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stating that the agreement will allow the reallocation of U.S. resources to focus on “high-end warfare” and “great power competition” (read: China), the Chinese Foreign Ministry pledged its support for the agreement, although it cautioned the reconciliation process should be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.” In 2018, China and Pakistan agreed to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a Chinese-funded series of transportation and energy infrastructure projects in Pakistan, to include Pakistan’s western regions, close to the Afghan border. Beijing is understandably worried about the rise of Islamic militant groups throughout the region.
A long road ahead . . .
In addition to troop reductions, the U.S. has pledged to initiate an administrative review of its current sanctions against the Taliban with the goal of removing them by August 27, 2020. Such concessions are predicated on the Taliban ceasing to threaten the security of the U.S. and its allies. Given that the U.S. launched a “defensive strike” against Taliban fighters “who were actively attacking an [Afghan security] checkpoint” earlier today, the road to peace in Afghanistan remains rocky and uncertain.