Taliban Calls on Biden to Follow Trump's Peace Plan in Afghanistan

The Taliban has called on President Joe Biden to follow through with the landmark peace deal reached between his predecessor and the Afghan Islamist movement amid concerns that the new U.S. administration could reconsider the agreement.

Trump struck the historic accord last February, promising to pull troops from the longest war in U.S. history in exchange for peace and power-sharing between the internationally-recognized government in Kabul and the Taliban, officially known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Ongoing violence and lingering political disputes have elicited a degree of skepticism of the arrangement at home and abroad, but the Taliban remain steadfast in their support for the pact.

"The goal is the independence of the country and the stability of peace in it," Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem said in a statement sent to Newsweek. "The agreement reached between the Islamic Emirate and the United States of America is the best means for this."

While Biden too has offered support for an exit from Afghanistan, he and his officials have also signaled some reservations with the arrangement they inherited less than a week ago. National security adviser Jake Sullivan discussed the matter Friday with Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib.

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," according to a White House readout.

The statement announced that the Biden administration would review the peace agreement signed nearly a year ago.

"[Sullivan] also made clear the United States' intention to review the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban agreement," the statement said, "including to assess whether 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 wake of this call, Naeem reiterated his group's commitment and emphasized the need for the new administration to demonstrates its own as well.

"Everyone must abide by what they pledged in the agreement," Naeem told Newsweek. "We, on our part, are committed to what we pledged, and we want the other side to also abide by what is pledged in the agreement. With this, we can reach the desired goal."

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Members of Talibans peace negotiation team attend a meeting with then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (unseen) in the Qatari capital Doha, on November 21, 2020. The U.S. secured a historic peace deal with its longtime foe in Afghanistan, but ongoing violence raised questions amid rounds of talks and U.S. troop withdrawals. PATRICK SEMANSKY/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

As for the Afghan government, the prospect of a U.S. review of Taliban adherence to the peace agreement was welcomed by senior officials.

Mohib said he "reaffirmed that Afghanistan remains committed to our foundational partnership with the United States and we will work closely together on security, peace, counter-terrorism and regional engagement" during his call with Sullivan.

"We agreed to work toward a permanent ceasefire and a just and durable peace in a democratic Afghanistan capable of preserving the gains of the past two decades, protecting the rights of all Afghans, and continuing the reforms," Mohib said in a statement.

Afghan Deputy Interior Minister for Strategy and Policies Sediq Sediqqi tweeted Friday that the peace agreement "so far, did not deliver a desired goal of ending Taliban's violence and bringing a ceasefire desired by the Afghans. The Taliban did not live up to its commitments."

The following day, Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah met with U.S. chargé d'affaires to Afghanistan Ross Wilson and NATO Operation Resolute Support commander U.S. Army General Scott Miller to discuss "views on the peace process, the second round of talks, & the latest political & security developments in the country," Abdullah tweeted.

Contacted for comments, Afghan ambassador to the U.S. Roya Rahmani referred Newsweek to her op-ed published Tuesday in the Washington Post.

"Important progress is being made on peace, but Afghanistan has experienced unprecedented levels of violence since the U.S.-Taliban agreement was signed last year. Although peace talks are ongoing in Doha, Qatar, the Afghan people have not seen peace manifest on the ground," Rahmani wrote.

"We know the peace process is just that, a process, and we must have patience," she continued. "But we must also remember how much is at stake in these negotiations. Every day, men, women and children live in fear of losing their rights, their democracy or even their very lives."

She stated that the "Biden administration will have to grapple with this stark reality as they formulate their policy in Afghanistan, and the deadline for making a decision is rapidly approaching," taking note of the May 2021 deadline for the total exit of U.S. troops.

"Given that the conditions have been repeatedly violated, the United States must now decide how to proceed," she added.

Biden has become the fourth U.S. president to oversee military operations in Afghanistan, a conflict now in its 20th year. Launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the U.S.-led war decimated the Taliban rule accused of harboring Al-Qaeda militants, but sparked a retaliatory insurgency that has retaken large swathes of the nation in the years since.

Al-Qaeda was formed in Afghanistan during the 1980s Soviet war there against rebel mujahideen, which received CIA support. The insurgent victory led to warring factions and the formation of the Taliban in the 1990s, which dominated the power struggle through the turn of the century.

Among the core principles of the group's peace agreement with the U.S. is that Afghanistan would not be allowed to ever again be used as a safe haven for designated foreign terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, or the Islamic State militant group, which has also set up a local jihadi outfit known as ISIS-Khorasan.

The group, also called ISIS-K, has been implicated in a number of bloody events over a recent spate of violence that some Afghan officials have also blamed on the Taliban. Recent attacks have targeted government officials, security forces, civilians and women of various backgrounds, including judges, journalists and intellectuals.

Two female judges from Afghanistan's Supreme Court were gunned down last week in the capital by assailants in a still unclaimed attack for which the Taliban has denied responsibility.

Also stirring tensions between the rival Afghan factions is the issue of prisoners. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's administration has released more than 5,000 Taliban detainees in exchange for about 1,000 security personnel under rebel custody.

Mohin revealed to local press Sunday that up to 600 Taliban members had been arrested once again, allegedly for rejoining the ranks of the armed movement.

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Then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) arrives for a visit at an Afghan National Army (ANA) training center in Kabul on January 11, 2011. "We're not leaving if you don't want us to leave," Biden told Afghans a decade ago. He has since emphasized a need to end U.S. "forever wars" and withdraw troops from the country on the heels of a peace deal struck with the Taliban by his predecessor, President Donald Trump. SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, other nations have also deepened their involvement in Afghanistan's political future. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, whose country is a key player in facilitating diplomacy with the Taliban, urged the Biden administration on Saturday to commit to the existing peace agreement as arranged by Trump, and on Tuesday, a Taliban delegation arrived for talks in Iran, a U.S. rival also calling for a timely U.S. military exit from Afghanistan.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry issued statements in response to both events, expressing appreciation for "the efforts of all parties who sincerely support the Afghan peace process," while also criticizing the Taliban for allegedly disregarding the deal.

"We hope that the Taliban will comply with the legitimate demands of the Afghan people to stop the bloodshed and ensure lasting peace, and respect the strong request of the countries of the region and the world to secure a ceasefire and reach a comprehensive peace agreement through meaningful and honest dialogue," the ministry said Tuesday. "The Taliban need to know that their current way of continuing the war and bloodshed is widely hated both in Afghanistan and in the region and the world."

Iran, Russia and China have all rejected U.S. accusations of direct support for the Taliban throughout Trump's tenure in office. Biden discussed "reports of Russia placing bounties on United States soldiers in Afghanistan" and other areas of friction between Washington and Moscow during a call Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden has suggested a foreign policy approach that would more readily take into conversations with U.S. allies and partners around the world. At the same time, he has used language mirroring that of Trump, who announced a drawdown of U.S. troops to 2,500 in his final weeks in office.

"Biden will end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, which have cost us untold blood and treasure," the president's official website states. "As he has long argued, Biden will bring the vast majority of our troops home from Afghanistan and narrowly focus our mission on Al-Qaeda and ISIS."