The agreement between the US and Taliban in Doha, disclosed several weeks after the “peace” talks, was in tatters within hours after it was announced by the US envoy. The incident reaffirms the inbuilt fragility of Afghanistan. It is a cruel paradox that the Taliban has renewed its offensive in Kabul with a blitz that killed 16 civilians till Tuesday afternoon and injured no fewer than 119. The toll could still rise because both people and homes were targeted. The killing has coincided with the announcement of the agreement, one that envisages the pullout of 5,000 US troops from the volatile country within five months.
Thus did the militant group convey the signal that it has all but rejected the Doha pact. The mayhem has exposed yet again the dangers of the troop withdrawal, couched in the chilling message that Afghanistan cannot be left to its own devices even 18 years after the US intervention, specifically to “smoke out Bin Laden” from the caves of Tora Bora, to summon the words of President George Bush. The fact that the Taliban, which is a party to the agreement, has claimed responsibility for the explosion also confirms that negotiations and purported agreements have been reduced to irrelevance.
The target of the blast was the Green Village compound, which houses several international organisations and guest houses. The explosion sent a plume of smoke into the night sky over Kabul and caused a nearby gasoline station to burst into flames. The blast occurred during the final minutes of a nationally televised interview with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on what a US-Taliban deal might mean for Afghanistan’s future. In tangible terms, it means more deaths and further destruction, going by Tuesday’s bedlam and butchery.
Small wonder that a section within the Taliban has binned what they call Donald Trump’s ‘peace agreement’ as a betrayal of Afghanistan and its people. Progressive troop withdrawal will hinge on Taliban’s fulfilment of the primary condition of the deal ~ reduction of violence. The militant group, having severed its links to the Al Qaida and Isis, has made its priorities clear with Tuesday’s horrifying explosion. The Afghan government, helmed by President Ashraf Ghani, was kept at a distance from the high table in Doha.
Nonetheless, envoy Khalilzad showed a draft deal to the President after declaring that they are “at the threshold of an agreement” following the end of the ninth round of US-Taliban talks. Of course, the agreement still needs Donald Trump’s approval. Far from concurrence, it is likely to be greeted by White House with a sense of shock and awe. He has been eager to withdraw troops before the 2020 election and the draft deal meets that deadline. The outlook is ever so uncertain. The relentless strife can only militate against Mr Trump’s electoral agenda. No less forbidding must be the challenge to Pakistan.