U.S. Agreement With Taliban Sets Timetable For Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Six months after Donald Trump declared talks with the Taliban “dead,” the U.S. has reached an historic deal with the Islamist group that could see all U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan by mid-2021. U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political leader Abdul Ghani Beradar signed the agreement in Doha on Saturday, which would see the withdrawal of the remaining 12,000 U.S. troops conditional on the Taliban fulfilling several commitments. The group has promised to cut ties with Al-Qaeda, maintain its current reduction in violent activities, and commence negotiations for a substantive peace deal with the Afghan government.

In Washington, D.C., President Trump said it was “time to bring our people back home,” and expressed confidence that the agreement represented a meaningful step forward in resolving one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. “I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time.” Having run for president promising to stop the U.S.’s “endless wars,” the deal represents a political victory for President Trump. Nevertheless, skepticism endures among those wary of Afghanistan’s long history of conflict. Michael O’Hanlon, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, described the deal to NPR as a “tiny step forward.” Even Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s Secretary of State, struck a more cautious tone: “This agreement will mean nothing… if we don’t take concrete actions on commitments and promises that have been made,” he warned.

Though peace talks are a welcome alternative to further violence, the skepticism is well-founded given Afghanistan’s delicate political situation. The Doha agreement requires the Taliban to engage with President Ashraf Ghani, but the militant group has repeatedly maligned him as an American puppet, and large parts of the country view him as an interloper following disputed elections last September. Even if the legitimacy of President Ghani and other government leaders is recognized, striking a broad agreement acceptable to all parties will be an enormous task. The Taliban’s desire for an Islamic Emirate – and their atrocious record on women’s rights – would appear irreconcilable with the modern democracy that the U.S. and Afghan leaders have sought to build since the invasion in 2001. Crucially, the Doha deal is contingent only on talks in Afghanistan commencing, and the U.S. has yet to clarify whether the withdrawal of troops will still be completed next year if an agreement has not been reached by that time. For discussions to be successful, continued oversight and involvement by the U.S. and other relevant parties is a necessity.

Since U.S. forces deposed the Taliban government in following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the ongoing war has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, and more than 50,000 members of the Afghan army and police have been killed since 2014. The Taliban have expanded their control over large parts of territory in recent years, but have been unable to hold major population centres. This stalemate forced the U.S. to abandon its policy of refusing to directly deal with the group, and a secret meeting was planned to be held at Camp David last September. That summit was cancelled after a car bomb attack in Kabul that killed twelve people, but negotiations quietly continued, paving the way for a seven-day “reduction of violence” by the Taliban late last month, and culminating in the signing of the deal in Doha.

For a country that has been at war for 40 years, even this small reprieve is encouraging. A permanent peace deal will only follow, however, if both the Afghan government and the Taliban are prepared to undertake complex and protracted negotiations in good faith. Much will hinge on whether the U.S. remains committed to seeing the peace process through. President Trump’s form in past peace negotiations – such as his meeting with Kim Jong-Un, which yielded plenty of positive headlines but few meaningful results – must change for that to happen.


Yemen, The Largest Humanitarian Crisis In The World

In the past, Yemen was a prosperous developing country suffused with economical and societal riches. Yemen’s roots in the development and distribution of internationally admired goods like coffee and gold date back centuries, which served as a reliable foundation for growth across much of its existence. However, over time it became apparent that Yemen’s unique capabilities would not prove to be an efficient protective mechanism against the travesties of humanity’s inner workings. Slowly, due to international involvement and rivaling political parties intervening with the nation’s societal welfare, the peace that Yemenis embraced for many years was beginning to dissolve into a thing of the past.
2015: The Ignition to Civil Turmoil
In 2004, the United States pushed the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to concentrate on combating a terrorist group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In response, Yemen’s military force backed by Saudi Arabia launched multiple strikes against a group known as Houthis, who Saleh alleged were creating a dynamic of separatism ,enforcing their religious beliefs on the country’s people and operating in collusion with AQAP. This created a severe rift between the most prominent religious parties in the nation, which established a hostile environment for the state of Yemen and all of its citizens. The trend towards a civil war, indicated by this long standing atmosphere of tension and conflict finally came to a precipice 11 years later. In February of 2015, the Houthi rebellion finally reached the place of power that it desired by forcing Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi (then leader of Yemen, and technically still president of the nation today) and his cabinet to flee to Saudi Arabia, leaving the Houthis essentially in control of the state and all of its facilities. Just a month later, the Saudi Arabian military set the goals of its military intervention to reverse the nation back into the authority of the Hadi government and retain governance over Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Ever since, these two factions have fought relentlessly for control over the nation, which once gave off a lustrous tint of optimism, but after seemingly endless warfare it has been reduced to a pile of debris and a living case study of how a society can collapse under the pressures of greed, religious opposition, and the corruption of foreign affairs.

The Current State of the Humanitarian Crisis
The civil war in Yemen has decreased the living conditions of its people to a terrifying level. With no resolution in sight, Yemeni people are faced with a situation where optimism for a brighter future seems more like an act of dreaming than a mental reflection of reality. In recent weeks, famine conditions caused by blockades on the borders of the nation and massive economic downfall rivaling famous events on global markets like the Great Depression have reached virality in an increased amount of regions around Yemen. It is estimated that nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition and could die if they do not receive urgent treatment. Along with mass starvation, the nationwide warfare has resulted in the displacement of approximately 4 million people, and the killing of over 100 000 people since 2015. These numbers give shocking insight into the sheer magnitude of this humanitarian crisis, and with important political figures like the U.S. President Joe Biden recently announcing reductions in international affairs including the civil war in Yemen, it is difficult to perceive a future where Yemeni citizens will be able to go back to the things they love. An individual can only enjoy the level of happiness that their society’s living conditions permits them to, and unfortunately for the Yemeni people, the likelihood of that ever getting back to a point of admiration remains shrouded in mystery.

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