More than a year of US-Taliban negotiations bore formal fruit Feb. 29 with the signing in Doha of what is being called a “peace deal” by Washington’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, named as leader of the Islamist group. The pact calls for the US to withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments under the agreement. Afghanistan’s government must release 5,000 Taliban prisoners before March 10, after which the “intra-Afghan” talks are to start, with the aim of negotiating a permanent ceasefire. The signing of the pact follows a one-week “Reduction in Violence” by the Taliban. (Khaama Press, NPR, Al Jazeera)
Amnesty International, however, raised concerns about what the US-Taliban deal could mean for Afghanistan’s women and religious minorities. Amnesty’s South Asia researcher, Zaman Sultani, said in a statement: “No one desires peace more than the people of Afghanistan, who have suffered so much over the past four decades of conflict. Any peace process involving the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan must not ignore the voice of victims. It must not disregard their calls for justice, truth, and reparation for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations and abuses—committed by all sides in the conflict. It must also guarantee the rights of women and girls and the rights of religious minorities in Afghanistan.” (Khaama Press)
US troops in Afghanistan have officially been in a non-combatant role since the “withdrawal” of 2014. The Trump administration announced in December the drawdown of about 4,000 troops from Afghanistan, leaving between 8,000 and 9,000 US troops in the country. (NBC) The iCasualties website puts the number of US troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001 at 2,448—up from 2,000 in 2012. The number of Afghan civilians killed in this period (by all parties to the conflict) is more difficult to determine, but a 2016 estimate by the Costs of War project put the figure at over 30,000, out of over 100,000 total Afghan deaths. The US last year overtook the Taliban in responsibility for new civilian casualties.
US refusal to cooperate effectively scuttled an International Criminal Court preliminary investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan last year.