News & Politics

U.S. and Taliban Sign Historic Peace Deal to End War in Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, after a joint news conference in the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

The United States and the Taliban signed a historic peace deal Saturday, laying the groundwork for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The agreement was signed at a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, at the Taliban’s headquarters there, by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. They “shook hands as the room erupted in cheers,” reported the New York Times.

This a major step in ending the nearly twenty-year war that started shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. There are still about 13,000 American troops in Afghanistan, and the withdrawal of those troops is dependent on the Taliban’s “fulfillment of major commitments that have been obstacles for years, including its severance of ties with international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.”

More negotiations remain between the Taliban and the Afghan government over the future of the country. According to the New York Times, “Officials hope those talks will produce a power-sharing arrangement and lasting cease-fire, but both ideas have been anathema to the Taliban in the past.”

“This agreement will mean nothing — and today’s good feelings will not last — if we don’t take concrete action on commitments stated and promises made,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Doha for the signing ceremony. “The future of Afghanistan is for Afghans to determine. The U.S.-Taliban deal creates the conditions for Afghans to do just that.”

President Trump spoke about the signing of the deal on Friday. “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.”

“These commitments represent an important step to a lasting peace in a new Afghanistan, free from Al Qaeda, ISIS, and any other terrorist group that would seek to bring us harm.”

During the signing on Saturday, another senior American official, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, was with Afghan officials in Kabul. They issued a joint declaration asserting the United States’ commitment to continue funding and supporting the Afghan military. And Mr. Esper emphasized that if the Taliban did not honor their pledges, “the United States would not hesitate to nullify the agreement.”

This agreement is historic, but make no mistake about it, it’s a vital step toward long-lasting peace.  In Kabul, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani called for a moment of silence for those during the nearly decades of conflict, before saying, “Today can be a day of overcoming the past.”

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis