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The US-Taliban Peace Deal: 10 Weeks On

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On 29 February 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal in Doha, Qatar, after more than 18 years of conflict. The agreement contained four main provisions (US Department of State, 29 February 2020):

1) Halt attacks against the US: The Taliban provided guarantees that it “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) Withdrawal of US troops: The US agreed to “the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan,” stipulating that in the first 135 days, the number of US personnel will be reduced from approximately 13,000 to 8,600. “With the commitment and action on the obligations” of the Taliban, all remaining forces are to be withdrawn by the end of April 2021.

3) Prisoner swap: The US additionally committed “to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan” for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban and 1,000 government prisoners by 10 March 2020 as a confidence-building measure.

4) Intra-Afghan peace talks: The Taliban, which throughout the negotiating process with the US rejected direct talks with the Afghan government, agreed to start intra-Afghan negotiations on 10 March 2020.1

The publicly released agreement does not contain any provision for the Taliban to reduce attacks against Afghan government forces, and the annexes to the agreement that outline implementation of the deal are classified. However, a spokesman for the US military command in Afghanistan indicated a de facto fifth provision in a recent statement (Military Times, 6 May 2020):

5) Reduction of violence: All sides had made a “spoken commitment” to reduce violence by 80%.

More than 10 weeks on, this report assesses the implementation of these five key tenets in the US-Taliban peace deal. Whereas the US and the Taliban have fulfilled their mutual commitments towards each other, the intra-Afghan prisoner swap, peace talks, and reduction in violence have been marred by delays and setbacks.