The United States and Taliban on 29 February 2020 signed a historic peace deal to end the 18-year-long confrontation in Afghanistan. The signing was held in Doha of Qatar between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and representatives of the Taliban. The new deal would see the two sides agree to the withdrawal of thousands of US troops from Afghanistan in return for insurgent guarantees. US aims to withdraw all forces "within 14 months" as per the declaration. Meanwhile, Afghanistan government will have to release Taliban insurgents held in captivity. Pompeo urged Taliban to "keep your promises to cut ties with Al-Qaeda."
  1. Pompeo said Afghan government in the past have failed because they were not inclusive. Victory for Afghans can only be achieved when they can live in peace and for US when Americans and its allies doesnt have live in fear of another terror attack.
  2. While the details of the deal are yet to be made public, the position of the Afghan government, which has been excluded from direct US-Taliban talks, remains unclear and the country is gripped by a fresh political crisis amid contested election results. 
  3. The deal comes after over a year of dialogue between the two sides, marred by back and forth negotiations and cancellations. 
  4. Kabul had sent a six-person task force to the Qatari capital to make initial contact with the Taliban political office, established in 2013.
  5. The inking of the deal will come after a week-long, partial truce that has mostly held across Afghanistan aimed at building confidence between the warring parties and showing the Taliban can control their forces. 
  6. It is to be noted that the US, which currently has between 12,000 and 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, could draw that number down to 8,600 within months of the agreement being signed. 
  7. The development is being timed with President Trump's campaign for a second term in the White House. During the 2016 presidential bid, trump had called for cutting down the number of troops stationed overseas especially in Afghanistan, known as the graveyard of empires. 
  8. However, further reductions would depend on the Taliban's engagement with the government of President Ashraf Ghani, whom they have until now dismissed as a "US-backed puppet."
  9. The deal is a result of three years of hard negotiations between the two sides over the civil-war torn country where the Taliban portrayed to have an upper hand. 
  10. Led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US, instead of pushing the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government jumped into the fray as its policy switched under the Trump presidency. 
  11. Reports suggest that Pakistan also played a pivotal role in bringing the Taliban to the table amid "growing Indian presence in Afghanistan".
India in the midst
  1. Days after President Trump visited India and met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Qatar invited India to be in Doha during the signing
  2. Indian Ambassador to Qatar represented India in the ceremony as the peace deal holds strategic and geopolitical implications for the country, which has invested in Afghanistan. 
  3. India's policy is to support all opportunities that can bring peace, stability and end violence in Afghanistan, MEA said on signing of the deal.
  4. The deal also holds significance in terms of the strained relations with Pakistan which has interests in the region.
  5. India remains committed to economic and human resource development partnership with Afghanistan. Foreign Secretary reiterated India’s support for Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process which results in enduring and inclusive peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. 
  6. They agreed that sustainable peace, stability, and prosperity in Afghanistan requires cessation of external support for terrorism and commitment to regional connectivity and integration, MEA said.
  7. The Taliban's sheltering of Al-Qaeda was the main reason for the US invasion following the deadly 9/11 attacks. The conflict has cost the US taxpayer more than $1 trillion in military and rebuilding costs since the US-led invasion of 2001.
Iran opposes Afghan pact it says US had 'no right' to sign
  1. Iran voiced its opposition 1 March 2020 to an Afghanistan accord between the United States and the Taliban, saying Americans had no right to decide on the country's future.
  2. The United States has no legal right to sign a peace agreement or to decide the future of Afghanistan," the foreign ministry said in a statement issued a day after the pact was inked in the Qatari capital.
  3. After 18 years of war, the US and the Taliban signed an agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020 that paves the way for a 14-month timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan, provided the militants open talks with Kabul and fulfil other pledges.
  4. Tensions have sharply escalated between Tehran and Washington since May 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew from a deal that gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
  5. The arch enemies have appeared to come to the brink of an all-out confrontation twice since then.