The US in Afghanistan: is the ‘withdrawal debate’ a mass deception By Umair Jamal

America’s envoy for Afghanistan, Khalilzad, recently visited Pakistan after a long phase of hearings and meetings with President Trump’s team which is expecting another round of dialogue with the Taliban. Clearly, Khalilzad is under pressure to deliver something to the White House. However, the pressure being built on Khalilzad is primarily the work of his country’s policy for Afghanistan. Let me explain.
It’s important to note that while the U.S. has talked about leaving Afghanistan, the former has only inspired ambiguity when it comes to putting out a clear policy. Thus, the Afghan Taliban should not be expected likely to Fall for the US’s “withdrawal narrative unless some concrete measure is taken by the U.S. Another recent statement from the Taliban’s official’s media channels states that peace cannot return to Afghanistan unless the US offers a clear timeline of its withdrawal from the country. It is becoming increasingly clear that the issue of US’s troop’s withdrawal has become one of the key factors when it comes to the existing deadlock in the dialogue process.
Washington expects the Taliban to issue some sort of recognition of the former’s conditions such as a willingness to make a deal with the Afghan government. The Taliban on their part, are apprehensive of conceding position without the U.S. making its position clear on the withdrawal timeline. Arguably, the last year’s statements coming out of Washington have not been able to convince the Taliban when it comes to trusting the narrative around the U.S. expected withdrawal from Afghanistan. Moreover, it’s also possible that the U.S. has attempted to negotiate with the Taliban by speculating about its impending withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The uncertainty is reflective of the U.S.’s announcement of sending more troops to Afghanistan. A few days ago, the US announced to deploy more troops under operation Freedom Sentinel, the official name for the mission succeeding the so-called Operation Enduring Freedom. The troop’s number being deployed in not big, the timing and timeline of the deployment say a lot about the existing confusion concerning the U.S.’s Afghanistan policy. It’s important to understand that the decision to deploy more troops comes at a time when the U.S. and the Taliban are trapped in a stalemate situation where both actors expect major concessions from the other.
While the Taliban gain diplomatic and political clout by engaging with regional states, the U.S.’s frustrations in Afghanistan are only going to grow in the coming months
On the one hand, the U.S. has announced to leave Afghanistan while on the other hand, the country is planning to send more troops to the country which is contradictory to the Taliban’s demands. In this regard, the Taliban’s refusal to change its fundamental position on the issue and demands from the U.S. concerning clarity on the withdrawal timeline are an indication that the group is under no pressure or hurry to make a deal with the U.S. Clearly, Washington’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan is likely to create differences between the two actors.
Another interesting factor concerning the deployment of U.S. troops is the timeline of the deployment. The placement is expected to take place during the next five to six months which means the expected withdrawal of U.S.’s troops from Afghanistan is not likely to happen anytime soon. It’s also possible that the Trump administration is attempting to put pressure on the Taliban by making such announcements. Regardless, such a deceitful play is only going to hurt the peace process.
The existing lack of clarity among various policy-making circles in the US has even undermined the work of Khalilzad. The growing pressure on Khalilzad means Washington may further put pressure on Pakistan to deliver a ceasefire in Afghanistan – if not an agreement. However, Pakistan should not be expected to deliver on any front except offering diplomatic assistance to the parties involved. A few days ago, the Afghan Taliban leaders issued a statement, asking their fighters to continue fighting as they believe “the victory is near.” “The Islamic State Emirate believes that conditions for a peaceful Afghanistan require an Afghanistan that is free from a foreign occupation where neither our sovereignty nor freedom are usurped nor our land and air space used to harm others,” said the statement. Afghan Taliban, on their part, continue to blame America for the failure of the peace talks as the group believes that the US should “adopt a policy of reason and understanding to remain a sincere partner in the negotiations process.”
It cannot be said more clearly that the Taliban want their proposals on the peace process to be accepted by the U.S. which demand the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan. While the Taliban gain diplomatic and political clout by engaging with regional states, the U.S.’s frustrations in Afghanistan are only going to grow in the coming months. Afghanistan’s peace process is in limbo for the probable future.
Source :
June 18, 2019

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