On the 22nd of January, the Biden Administration announced its intention to review the February 2020 peace agreement reached with the Taliban under the Trump Administration. This comes amidst a retooling of American foreign policy under the Biden administration, with President Biden seeking to re-establish America’s credibility on the world stage while also trying to undo the damage done under previous administrations.
In a statement issued late on Friday, National Security Council Spokeswoman Emily Horne said that Washington sought to ensure that the Taliban was “living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.” In the statement, Horne noted that Biden’s newly appointed national security advisor Jake Sullivan had already spoken with his Afghan counterpart and made clear the United States’ intention to review the deal. Sullivan “underscored that the U.S. will support the peace process with a robust and regional diplomatic effort, which will aim to help the two sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire.” Officials in Kabul are said to be relieved by the new administration’s outlook, after months of concern over how the policy could be recalibrated.
Under the Trump administration, withdrawal from Afghanistan became a priority. Under the terms of the U.S.-Taliban deal, the United States and its NATO allies would withdraw all troops in 14 months, provided the Taliban continued with national peace talks and prevented al-Qaeda or other militant groups from operating in areas under Taliban control. As part of the agreement, the Taliban stopped its attacks on international forces, but it continued to fight against the Afghan government – allegedly, the Taliban has stepped up its attacks in recent months, with a slew of attacks and assassinations of officials and politicians, although the group denies involvement. In reviewing the peace treaty, the Biden administration are not seeking to overturn the deal, but instead trying to ensure that all parties involved are sticking to the terms of the agreement. The Biden administration has also communicated its desire to protect the various gains made by Afghan women and girls, who under Taliban rule had not been allowed to attend school or work.
It is crucial that this is a peace deal built on meaning and credibility; should it be shown that the Taliban have not been engaging with the terms of the agreement, then it may be necessary for the Biden administration to draw up a new deal. However, lasting peace in Afghanistan is also incredibly important. It is hoped that the Biden administration continues to push for this goal, even if a review of the deal reveals setbacks or non-adherence. This new administration appears committed to ending American involvement in Afghanistan, with Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, telling his Senate confirmation hearing “we want to end this so-called forever war.” With this in mind, it seems possible that peace in Afghanistan could finally be achieved, two decades after United States and NATO forces initially invaded.