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Setback to Pak efforts, US to review Afghan accord

Pakistan has asked Washington to maintain ‘Doha Accord’ but Biden Administration says will review it according to new policy

(Nation and agencies report)

WASHINGTON: Within 24 hours of Pakistan’s assertion to new US administration to maintain the Afghan peace deal reached in Doha (Qatar), the Biden administration has reacted saying that it will review this decision according to President Joe Biden’s point of view.

The political observers have commented that if Biden administration decided to amend or change the clauses of the agreement, it would be a setback to Pakistan’s efforts as Islamabad has tried its best to persuade Taliban to this accord.

It is pertinent to mention here that a delegation of Taliban Political Commission (TPC), headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar visited Islamabad and discussed the issues of mutual concern in relations to Afghanistan during a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan at the PM House on December 18, 2020.

US President Joe Biden

According to sources, Biden administration wants to amend or change the agreement which was earlier regarded as a landmark US States deal with the Taliban, focusing on whether the insurgent group has reduced attacks in Afghanistan, in keeping with its side of the agreement.

Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Doha (Qatar) last year, to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to kickstart peace talks with the Afghan government.

The US had committed to reducing the number of its troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days of signing the deal, and working with its allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over the same period. Currently, there are 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan.

According to information available, President Joe Biden’s newly appointed national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, spoke with his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib and “made clear the United States’ intention to review” the deal, said National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne late on Friday.

ISLAMABAD: A delegation of Taliban Political Commission (TPC), headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar discussing issues of mutual concern in relations to Afghanistan during a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan at the PM House on December 18, 2020.

A statement issued by White House on Friday (January 22) says; National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke this morning with Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib regarding the U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Afghan partnership and to peace for all the people of Afghanistan. Mr. Sullivan underscored that the U.S. will support the peace process with a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire. Mr. Sullivan also made clear the United States’ intention to review the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban agreement, including to assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders. He expressed America’s desire that all Afghan leaders embrace this historic opportunity for peace and stability. The National Security Advisors discussed the United States’ support for protecting the extraordinary gains made by Afghan women, girls, and minority groups as part of the peace process. Mr. Sullivan committed to consulting closely with the Government of Afghanistan, NATO allies, and regional partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, and secure future for Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi

Specifically, Washington wants to check that the Taliban are “living up to [their] commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders”, her statement continued.

It added that Sullivan “underscored that the US will support the peace process with a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire”. Sullivan also discussed US’ support for protecting recent progress made on women and minority groups’ rights as part of the peace process.

The statement is in line with Biden’s stance on Afghanistan, who has stated that while he would reduce the number of combat troops in Afghanistan, he would not withdraw US military presence.

Biden’s nominee for state secretary, Anthony Blinken, had also hinted earlier this week that an increase in violence in Afghanistan may lead to US retaining some of it troops.

Pakistan wants intact accord

Pakistan has asked the new US administration to preserve with the Afghan peace deal which is hopefully an instrumental to establish the peace in Afghanistan.

While expressing the policy statement of the government, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Thursday that his country has hopes for greater engagement with the new United States government and called on Joe Biden to follow up on the ongoing Afghan peace process and US troops withdrawal from the country.

“I think they [Biden administration] should realise there is an opportunity in Afghanistan and they should persevere with what was initiated and not reverse things,” Qureshi told Al Jazeera.

National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horn

Push them forward, because, after a long time, we have started moving in the right direction.”

Direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, against whom the US has fought an almost 20-year war, are continuing in the Qatari capital Doha but progress remains slow.

There has been an increase in violence in recent weeks, with a surge in targeted attacks and bombings across the country for which the Afghan government has blamed the Taliban.

Pakistan facilitated the intra-Afghan talks and the US-Taliban dialogue and has now called for the US to stick to the agreements.

Former US President Donald Trump accelerated a timeline for troop withdrawal agreed with the Taliban in February last year, as the Biden administration comes in with 2,500 US soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan.

Under last year’s historic deal, all US troops are due to leave Afghanistan by April, but the Pentagon recently hinted it could delay that if violence does not abate.

“We are concerned because we feel violence can vitiate the climate,” Qureshi added.

“Pakistan has done a lot, we have really bent backwards to create an environment to facilitate the peace process,” he said, while blaming “spoilers” for the violence, identifying them as internal Afghan players “who have benefited from the war economy” and alleging that “there are elements from outside who do not share our vision, which is a peaceful, stable, prosperous Afghanistan.”

“It is a shared responsibility to begin with but the ultimate responsibility is with the Afghan leadership. It’s their country, it’s their future.”

Pakistan has played the role of mediator during the peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US, which led to a landmark deal signed in Doha in February last year. According to a joint statement released by the parties at the time, a full withdrawal of all US and coalition forces would occur within 14 months of the deal getting signed, if the Taliban hold up their end of the agreement.

The US had committed to reducing the number of its troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days of signing the deal, and working with its allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over the same period. Currently, there are 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan.

However, Biden’s nominee for state secretary, Anthony Blinken, hinted earlier this week that an increase in violence in Afghanistan may lead to US retaining some of its troops. “We want to retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism, which is what brought us there in the first place,” Blinken said in his confirmation hearing. “We have to look carefully at what has actually been negotiated. I haven’t been privy to it yet.”

US President Biden has stated that while he would reduce the number of combat troops in Afghanistan, he would not withdraw US military presence.