Can the 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan be brought to an end and the stability and reconstruction of the country be achieved? The road is still rough.
The United States and the Taliban, the former ruling power in Afghanistan, have signed a peace agreement.
The United States plans to reduce the number of its troops stationed in Afghanistan in a phased manner from about 13,000 and withdraw them completely over the next 14 months. The Taliban will not allow terrorist organizations to conduct activities based in Afghanistan that threaten the safety of the United States and its allies, nor will it allow them to conduct training or raise funds.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has intermittently held direct talks with the Taliban since 2018. Trump is apparently trying to put an emphasis on the return of U.S. soldiers and the reduction in the costs for the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan as “achievements” for the presidential election this autumn.
The Afghan government did not participate in this agreement. The focus will be on whether the Afghan government and the Taliban will be able to hold talks on the future management of the country in line with the agreement.
U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan began in 2001. The United States attacked the then Taliban regime for hiding Al-Qaida, the international terrorist organization that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The regime collapsed, but the Taliban subsequently regained power.
About 2,400 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan. The annual number of civilian casualties has exceeded 10,000 for six consecutive years since 2014, when the U.S. military handed over the authority of securing the country to Afghan security forces. If the reduction of U.S. forces creates a “power vacuum,” there is a possibility that the situation could further deteriorate.
Even if the Taliban makes efforts to scale back the violence, there is no guarantee that it will be able to control the activities of Al-Qaida and the Islamic State extremist group, among others.
“If bad things happen, we’ll go back,” Trump has said. It is only natural that he urged the Taliban to implement the agreement and indicated his intention to review the withdrawal of U.S. forces depending on the situation. A hasty withdrawal of troops must be avoided.
Political turmoil of the Afghan government is a cause for concern. Vote counting in the presidential election in September last year was delayed due to allegations of fraud. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who was reelected in February, is being tested in terms of his ability to govern the country.
In contrast to the current republic headed by a president, the Taliban is seeking to govern the country based on an extreme interpretation of Islamic rule. There is a wide gap between the two sides.
To realize stable governance, it is essential for each party to make efforts to promote reconciliation and improve public security.
China and Russia are increasing their influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban. Instead of competing for influence with each other, the countries concerned should continue to provide constructive assistance to prevent Afghanistan from reverting to a “hotbed of terrorism.”