Diplomacy

India Loath to Welcome US-Taliban Agreement But Notes All Afghans Have Hailed Deal

The US has committed to a full military withdrawal in 14 months, the release of Taliban captives and the lifting of sanctions while the Taliban agreed not to allow Afghan soil to be used to attack the US and its allies, and to launch 'intra-Afghan negotiations'.

New Delhi: After the United States and the Taliban signed a peace agreement in Qatar on Saturday, India said that it would extend all support to the “government and people” of Afghanistan, but notably refrained from welcoming the pact that will eventually lead to the withdrawal of US troops from the country by the end of April 2021.

At a ceremony in Doha, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban’s deputy leader, Mullah Baradar, signed the cumbersomely titled “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America”.

Under this pact, whose signing was witnessed by US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, the United States has committed to withdraw all American and allied troops from Afghanistan in 14 months. The pact front loads the drawdown, specifying that in the next 135 days, the US will reduce its force levels in the country to 8,600 troops and withdraw all soldiers from five bases. In return, the Taliban has agreed not to allow Afghan soil to be used against the US and its allies and to commence talks with other Afghan parties for a comprehensive peace agreement.

The Indian ambassador to Qatar, P. Kumaran represented India at the ceremony. This was the first time that a serving Indian official has attended an event with the presence of the Taliban or even been in physical proximity since the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government sent the then external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, to deliver three terrorists (including Masood Azhar) into Taliban ‘custody’ at Kandahar airport in December 1999 as part of the deal to release hostages on board a hijacked Indian airliner. During a Russia-hosted conference with a Taliban delegation in 2018, India only sent retired officials as observers.

In keeping with its continuing aversion to the Taliban, whose origins lie in Pakistan’s support, India on Saturday evening issued a cautiously worded statement on the Doha pact.

We note that the entire political spectrum in Afghanistan, including the government, the democratic polity and civil society, has welcomed the opportunity and hope for peace and stability generated by these agreements,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

The short statement with three paragraphs had no phrase that ‘welcomed’ the agreement. It also did not refer to the Taliban by name.

“India’s consistent policy is to support all opportunities that can bring peace, security and stability in Afghanistan; end violence; cut ties with international terrorism; and lead to a lasting political settlement through an Afghan led, Afghan owned and Afghan controlled process,” stated Kumar.

He noted that as “a contiguous neighbour, India will continue to extend all support to the Government and people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future where the interest of all sections of Afghan society are protected”.

India considers Afghanistan as an immediate neighbour, since the north-central end of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir – which abuts the Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan – is officially regarded as Indian territory.

Indian concerns over the agreement with the Taliban centre around the impact the US exit might have on the security and stability of the Afghan government and on Pakistan’s role in the country and region going forward. The fear is that the Taliban’s strength will only grow, to the detriment of regional security.

Highlights of the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan

The agreement signed in Doha on Saturday is structured in four parts.

The first specifies the timetable for the withdrawal of US and allied forces, setting a deadline of 14 months for the exit of the last foreign soldier from Afghanistan. In addition, the US commits “to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure”. The US has also agreed to “initiate an administrative review of current US sanctions and the rewards list” against members of the Taliban. Finally, the US will move the UN Security Council to remove Taliban members from the sanctions list.

Each of these US commitments is pegged to progress on the commitments the Taliban has made under the pact, detailed in the second part of the pact: “to prevent any group or individual, including al-Qa’ida, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies”.

The third part is the Taliban’s commitment to “start intra-Afghan negotiations with Afghan sides on March 10, 2020”.

The fourth part of the pact is that a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be an item on the agenda of the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations. The participants of intra-Afghan negotiations will discuss the date and modalities of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, including joint implementation mechanisms, which will be announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.”

In a separate document released on Saturday, Afghanistan government and the US announced a joint declaration that they are working towards a “comprehensive and sustainable peace agreement” to end the Afghan civil war.

This agreement will include four parts – prevent use of Afghan territory for terror groups “against security of the United states and its allies”, timeline for withdrawal of foreign troops, political settlement from intra-Afghan talks and a permanent ceasefire.

“These four parts are interrelated and interdependent,” it said.

The joint declaration also commits the United States to continue to provide support and also conduct military operations to “complement” Afghan security forces”. US also committed to facilitations between Afghanistan and Pakistan “to work out arrangements to ensure neither country’s security is threatened by actions from the territory of the other side”.

The Afghan government also agreed that with start of intra-Afghan negotiations,  the UN Security Council will approach to delist members of the Taliban from the sanctions list by May 2020, or within 30 days of finalising framework agreement.

Indian foreign secretary in Kabul

Meanwhile, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla chose Afghanistan as his first foreign destination since assuming office last month.

A press release at the conclusion of his trip on February 29 said that Shringla noted the “hope for peace generated by recent developments”. The top Indian diplomat reiterated the “need for all sections of the political leadership to work together in the pursuit of sustainable peace and security for the people of the country”.

The Indian foreign secretary met with President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former president Hamid Karzai, first vice president-elect, Amrullah Saleh, national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib, acting foreign minister Mohammad Haroon Chakhansuri and acting finance minister Abdul Zadran.

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Full text of US-Taliban agreement

Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan
between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America

February 29, 2020

A comprehensive peace agreement is made of four parts:

  1. Guarantees and enforcement mechanisms that will prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies.
  2. Guarantees, enforcement mechanisms, and announcement of a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan.
  3. After the announcement of guarantees for a complete withdrawal of foreign forces and timeline in the presence of international witnesses, and guarantees and the announcement in the presence of international witnesses that Afghan soil will not be used against the security of the United States and its allies, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will start intra-Afghan negotiations with Afghan sides on March 10, 2020, which corresponds to Rajab 15, 1441 on the Hijri Lunar calendar and Hoot 20, 1398 on the Hijri Solar calendar.
  4. A permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be an item on the agenda of the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations. The participants of intra-Afghan negotiations will discuss the date and modalities of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, including joint implementation mechanisms, which will be announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.

The four parts above are interrelated and each will be implemented in accordance with its own agreed timeline and agreed terms. Agreement on the first two parts paves the way for the last two parts.

Following is the text of the agreement for the implementation of parts one and two of the above. Both sides agree that these two parts are interconnected. The obligations of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban in this agreement apply in areas under their control until the formation of the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations.

PART ONE

The United States is committed to withdraw from Afghanistan all military forces of the United States, its allies, and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel within fourteen (14) months following announcement of this agreement, and will take the following measures in this regard:

A. The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will take the following measures in the first one hundred thirty-five (135) days:

1)  They will reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to eight thousand six hundred (8,600) and proportionally bring reduction in the number of its allies and Coalition forces.

2)  The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from five (5) military bases.

B. With the commitment and action on the obligations of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban in Part Two of this agreement, the United States, its allies, and the Coalition will execute the following:

1)  The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan within the remaining nine and a half (9.5) months.

2)  The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases.

C. The United States is committed to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides. Up to five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and up to one thousand (1,000) prisoners of the other side will be released by March 10, 2020, the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations, which corresponds to Rajab 15, 1441 on the Hijri Lunar calendar and Hoot 20, 1398 on the Hijri Solar calendar. The relevant sides have the goal of releasing all the remaining prisoners over the course of the subsequent three months. The United States commits to completing this goal. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban commits that its released prisoners will be committed to the responsibilities mentioned in this agreement so that they will not pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies.

D. With the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, the United States will initiate an administrative review of current U.S. sanctions and the rewards list against members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban with the goal of removing these sanctions by August 27, 2020, which corresponds to Muharram 8, 1442 on the Hijri Lunar calendar and Saunbola 6, 1399 on the Hijri Solar calendar.

E. With the start of intra-Afghan negotiations, the United States will start diplomatic engagement with other members of the United Nations Security Council and Afghanistan to remove members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban from the sanctions list with the aim of achieving this objective by May 29, 2020, which corresponds to Shawwal 6, 1441 on the Hijri Lunar calendar and Jawza 9, 1399 on the Hijri Solar calendar.

F. 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.

PART TWO

In conjunction with the announcement of this agreement, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will take the following steps to prevent any group or individual, including al-Qa’ida, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies:

1. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.

2. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will send a clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan, and will instruct members of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies.

3. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the United States and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement.

4. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban is committed to deal with those seeking asylum or residence in Afghanistan according to international migration law and the commitments of this agreement, so that such persons do not pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies.

5. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will not provide visas, passports, travel permits, or other legal documents to those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies to enter Afghanistan.

PART THREE

1. The United States will request the recognition and endorsement of the United Nations Security Council for this agreement.

2. The United States and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban seek positive relations with each other and expect that the relations between the United States and the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations will be positive.

3. The United States will seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post- settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and will not intervene in its internal affairs.

Signed in Doha, Qatar on February 29, 2020, which corresponds to Rajab 5, 1441 on the Hijri Lunar calendar and Hoot 10, 1398 on the Hijri Solar calendar, in duplicate, in Pashto, Dari, and English languages, each text being equally authentic.

Note: The article, originally published early on March 1, 2020, is being republished at 11:20 am with updates on a document released on Saturday, highlighting the agreements’ goals.