After 18 Years of War in Afghanistan, US-Taliban Sign Peace Deal
India’s Ambassador to Qatar will also be a witness to the signing of the landmark peace deal.
The United States and the Afghan Taliban on Saturday, 29 February, signed a deal in Doha allowing for further peace talks and the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, potentially ending the longest war the US has ever fought.
The US and its allies will withdraw all their forces from Afghanistan within 14 months if the Taliban abides by the agreement, Washington and Kabul said in a joint statement, reported AFP.
After an initial reduction of troops to 8,600 within 135 days of Saturday’s signing, the US and its partners “will complete the withdrawal of their remaining forces from Afghanistan within 14 months... and will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases”, the declaration stated, according to the news agency.
Both sides will also exchange thousands of prisoners ahead of intra-Afghan talks, according to the deal.
Meanwhile, India conveyed to Afghan leadership that sustainable peace in Afghanistan requires an end to externally sponsored terrorism, PTI reported.
To oversee the signing of the deal between the US and the Taliban, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Doha on Saturday. India's Ambassador to Qatar was also a witness to the signing of the landmark peace deal.
“Effort only became real when the Taliban showed interest in pursuing real peace and ending their relationship with Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups.”Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State
“The agreement that we will sign today is the true test of this effort,” he added.
“If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home,” Donald Trump had said earlier.
Trump has said that Defense Secretary Mark Esper separately issued a joint declaration with the Kabul government, which was excluded from direct US-Taliban talks.
India Witnesses US-Taliban Peace Deal Signing in Doha
India was invited by the Qatar government for the ceremony where the deal was signed and Indian ambassador P Kumaran attended it, PTI reported.
It was for the first time India officially attended an event involving the Taliban.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Saturday met Afghanistan's acting Finance Minister Abdul Habib Zadran and Deputy Minister of Transport Mohammad Zekria and witnessed signing of agreements for road projects being carried out with India's assistance.
India has been a key stakeholder in the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan controlled, according to PTI.
India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any "ungoverned spaces" where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.
Qatar Provides a Neutral Space for Talks
While Kabul was not be represented at the Doha signing, it sent a six-person task force to the Qatari capital to make initial contact with the Taliban political office, reports AFP.
By providing neutral space for talks on ending the conflict Qatar has boosted its international profile and defied a regional embargo enforced by Saudi Arabia, which accuses it of being too close to Islamist movements, according to the agency.
Contours of the Deal
The deal comes after a week-long, partial truce aimed at building confidence between the warring parties and demonstrating the Taliban can control its forces. Isolated attacks have reportedly continued in rural areas.
It has lost over 2,400 soldiers in Afghanistan since late 2001, according to PTI.
Further reductions would depend on the Taliban's engagement with the government of President Ashraf Ghani, whom they have dismissed as a US-backed puppet.
Ghani has been declared winner of last year's elections, but his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, is refusing to recognise the win and has vowed to set up a rival government.
(With inputs from AFP and PTI)
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