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The Trump administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February in the hope that violence in the region would come to an ebbing. A new report is suggesting otherwise,
In his quarterly report, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko has stated that violence between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban has increased after an initial period of peace. According to the report, this increase in violence has been led by the Taliban and is well above the normal standard.
The peace deal signed in February didn’t prohibit these kinds of escalations by the Taliban. However, Sopko states in the report that there was an implicit understanding that all parties would show restraint.
For now, the coalition on the ground in Afghanistan is refusing to share the exact number of attacks by Taliban forces. The reasoning behind this is to keep negotiations with the Taliban on an even keel.
The Dissonance between the Pentagon and White House
While speaking to CNN, Lt Col Thomas Campbell, a spokesman at the Pentagon, stated that the level of violence caused by Taliban forces against Afghani forces is unacceptable. Lt Col Campbell made this statement after the US-Taliban peace deal was signed.
However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had taken a stance contrary to that of the Pentagon, telling reporters in March that the Taliban had reduced violence.
This kind of dissonance isn’t what the White House is looking for especially during a pandemic.
The Peace Deal Timetable
The peace deal struck in February essentially put in place a 14-month timetable to get US troops out of Afghanistan. US military presence in Afghanistan has not gone down well with the American public. There is no motivation in the public to see America as the world’s police.
President Trump came to power by promising to end the ‘useless’ wars. The peace deal in Afghanistan was a step in the same direction.
According to reports, the US is already ahead of schedule in reducing troops on the ground. Less than 10,000 US troops are in Afghanistan as per the latest numbers. The numbers are expected to fall to 8,600 by mid-July.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The crisis has made it difficult to train soldiers. This is why many soldiers are coming back home.
Diplomatic Efforts behind Schedule
While troop reduction in Afghanistan is ahead of schedule, the same cannot be said about diplomatic efforts.
The peace deal also outlined key diplomatic measures for long-term stability in the region. However, these measures are behind schedule, unlike the troop reduction effort.
Intra-Afghan diplomatic measures which were part of the peace deal are yet to begin. The release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners is not yet complete. Deadlines laid out for diplomatic goals in the peace deal have expired.
Some US officials have stated that the pandemic could accelerate the release of Taliban prisoners.
Long term peace in Afghanistan is an improbable goal without diplomacy. The Trump administration would hope that the release of the prisoners would help reduce violence from the Taliban in order to bring stability to the region.