The agreement’s language suggests that the US was prepared to accept the Taliban’s eventual takeover of Afghanistan.

The Afghan army’s striking collapse in the face of the Taliban march left everyone in shock across the world. Although the Afghan army consisted of 350,000 well-equipped troops,  it didn't appear to be willing to fight against the lesser endowed Taliban.

There are various reasons for the Afghan army’s unwillingness to fight for a government resented for corruption and populated with warlords. But the US-Taliban deal might be one of the most prominent reasons for the collapse of the Afghan army. 

The language of the deal was such that instead of securing the interests of the Afghan army, it ended up giving the Taliban a leeway to capture Afghanistan. Seeing Washington signing a bad deal with the Afghan army's avowed enemy, it sent a signal across the Afghan army's ranks that the US finds the Taliban as an invincible force that cannot be subdued. 

After the US withdrawal, the Western-backed Afghan army did not stand a chance of winning the war because they were left in the lurch without air cover and Pentagon's military experience and superiority. 

Another fact, which backs the idea that the US-Taliban deal gave the armed group a major impetus to gain dominance across Afghanistan, is the leaked US intelligence estimate that Kabul was going to fall in six months following the American pullout (later estimates squeezed that time frame even tighter).

Although Kabul fell way before the CIA-estimated timeline, it became clear that the US government had accepted the prospect of Taliban ruling the country. 

Here's a breakdown of the US deal with the insurgent group.  

US withdrawal & foreign terrorist groups

The agreement clearly states that the US and its allies will withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban’s pledge that the group will not allow any foreign terror groups like Al Qaeda to operate across Afghanistan. 

This particular clause appears to be the main part of the agreement, supposedly guaranteeing that anti-American terror groups cannot use Afghan soil as they did in the past like for the September 11 attacks. 

This April 1998 file photo, shows al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
This April 1998 file photo, shows al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP Archive)

With this clause, the US justifies its withdrawal because the main reason why Washington was in Afghanistan was because of Al Qaeda's presence in the country. If the Taliban, which is also an anti-American group, promises that they will not allow any foreign terrorist activity, then, for Washington, there is no longer any reason to stay there. 

But it still remains unknown whether the Taliban can be trusted regarding keeping foreign fighters out or not. 

Prisoner exchange

The agreement includes a prisoner exchange between the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban. According to the deal, the US will work “to expeditiously release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides.”

Removing sanctions over Taliban

According to the deal, Washington promises that it “will initiate an administrative review of current U.S. sanctions and the rewards list against members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, which refers to the Taliban, “with the goal of removing these sanctions“. 

Removing sanctions against a group, with a such a problematic past, is a definite sign that the US wants to stay on friendly terms with the Taliban.

While the US pledges to remove sanctions on the Taliban, it still enforces various sanctions over countries like Iran, which is recognised by the US and the international community. Despite the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan not being recognised by the US according to the deal, Washington still pledged to remove sanctions. 

Washington also promised to initiate an international process in favour of the group. The US “will start diplomatic engagement with other members of the United Nations Security Council” to ensure the removal of members of the Taliban “from the sanctions list” by the end of May, the deal said. 

But the removal of sanctions has not been realised yet because its main condition, reaching a political settlement through the intra-Afghan dialogue, has not been met. 

After capturing Kabul and much of the country, the Taliban continues to hold talks with the Afghan dialogue group, signalling its anticipation of the removal of sanctions. 

No threat against Taliban

“The United States and its allies will refrain from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Afghanistan or intervening in its domestic affairs,” the deal said. 

It means even under Taliban rule, the US and its Western allies will not intervene in Afghanistan’s internal politics as long as the group complies with the agreement, which effectively guarantees that the Taliban will be spared from any foreign interference. 

It also implies that as long as the Taliban has enough internal support, it could stay in power without any fear from external forces. For a political group, which wants to stay in power indefinitely, the clause provides a perfect condition.

Promising friendly relations 

While the deal uses vague language, it also guarantees that the US and the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan will “seek positive relations with each other”.  

But the deal conditions positive relations on the fate of the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue. The deal also interestingly describes the new post-settlement Kabul administration as an “Afghan Islamic government” with which US relations and negotiations “will be positive”. 

Waheedullah Hashimi, a senior Taliban commander, recently disclosed that the group will apply Islamic law across Afghanistan.  

"We will not discuss what type of political system should we apply in Afghanistan because it is clear. It is Sharia law and that is it," Hashimi said, referring to the Islamic law. 

Source: TRT World