Fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban resumed shortly after the ceasefire that took place during Eid al-Fitr. The ceasefire, initiated by the Taliban, allowed Afghans to travel during the holiday with less fear of fighting breaking out. With violence increasing shortly after, anxieties are at a high while the U.S. military begins the withdrawal of troops and peace talks between the warring sides are just beginning.
According to The Guardian, an Afghan military spokesperson and a local official reported that there were clashes the day after Eid ended in Lashkar Gah, an area which has been plagued by intense fighting since the U.S. began its troop withdrawal on May 1. However, the Taliban tweeted out that “Both sides agreed to continue the talks after [Eid al-Fitr],” and they have reportedly briefly met in Qatar to initiate the peace talks (France 24).
Fighting increased after the ceasefire was over – a common pattern throughout past years (New York Times). This potentially signals that the surge in violence after Eid this year is not directly related to the U.S. pullout. However, the Taliban was angered by the initial delay of the withdrawal process. In response, the Taliban canceled peace talks that were supposed to take place in April with the Afghan government forces (New York Times). At this point in time, the Taliban has negotiated far more with the forces that are leaving rather than beginning to discuss a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government. Accordingly, the U.S.’ intention to withhold military intervention and let Afghanistan reclaim political independence is necessary to support the prospect of a peaceful future for Afghanistan. It is also encouraging that the early workings of peace talks have been initiated again, but the fighting currently heavily outweighs the peace talks.
Although the predicted consequences of the military pullout is a contested topic, the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan is the first step towards ending the war. Afghan security forces have been taking the lead since 2014 according to the U.S.- Taliban joint agreement, meaning the presence of the U.S. military is only aggravating the Taliban and most likely causing more deaths (New York Times). Although it’s troubling that the withdrawal is concerning Afghans and raising anxieties, it’s imperative that the U.S. completes the military pullout to ensure that the end of the war comes. As long as the American troops are there, the war will not end and violence will continue.
The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for over 18 years. Taliban-occupied areas are primarily found in the countryside of Afghanistan, where copious checkpoints with armed guards monitor the highways outside the cities. Many children living in Afghanistan have never known life without checkpoints, gunfire, bombings, and occupied areas (BBC). It’s estimated that nearly 1,600 children and 3,977 people have been victims of the war in Afghanistan since 2016 (Al Jazeera).
The Trump administration initiated extensive negotiations with the Taliban and committed to having all troops withdrawn by May 1, 2021 (Council on Foreign Relations). Under the Biden administration, it was pushed back to the symbolic date of September 11, 2021. Angered by the delay, the Taliban canceled peace talks with Afghan government forces (New York Times). Thus far, talks that have taken place have primarily been between the United States and the Taliban. Following nine rounds of negotiations, the deal rests on four major tenets: a permanent ceasefire (unlike the Eid ceasefire), the withdrawal of foreign forces, intra-Afghan power-sharing agreements, and counterterrorism measures (Council on Foreign Relations).
The quick resumption of fighting after the Eid ceasefire signals that both sides are at a relative standstill in terms of initiating the process of meaningful peace talks. Although the relative upholding of the ceasefire and attending a meeting in Qatar is a step in the right direction, the only route at this point towards peace in Afghanistan is undergoing the withdrawal process. Many are worried that the increase in fighting after the ceasefire is directly related to the pullout of U.S. troops, but upholding the deal is seemingly the only option for long-lasting change that bolsters human rights, democracy, and political independence in Afghanistan.
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