Khalilzad, the veteran diplomat who leads U.S. peace efforts and is himself from Afghanistan, has long insisted that the U.S. is not seeking a withdrawal agreement, but “a peace agreement that allows withdrawal.” As the agreement contains terms on various steps the Afghan government should take, their non-participation in the talks has created an obstacle to future negotiations and angered Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan officials. Specifically, the United States agreed in the agreement that up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be released by the Afghan government by March 10, 2020, as “trust builders” between the Taliban and the Kabul government, and that the Taliban would release 1,000 prisoners to detain at the same time. However, the prisoners are being held by the Afghan government, not the United States. Since the Afghan government was not part of the agreement, it has no obligation to release Taliban prisoners it considers terrorists. As a result, the next stage of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government is suspended. On the same day that the United States signed the agreement, it also issued a joint statement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States for the establishment of peace in Afghanistan (Joint Statement). Footnote 34 The Joint Statement is in many ways consistent with the agreement with the Taliban. It sets the following goal for a future peace deal: 58 Mujib Mashal, Taliban intensify attacks even as the coronavirus spreads in Afghanistan, N.Y.

Times (Apr. 24, 2020), www.nytimes.com/2020/04/24/world/asia/taliban-attacks-afghanistan-coronavirus.html; Susannah George, Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rise after U.S.-Taliban deal, Wash. Swiss Post (19 May 2020), www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/afghanistans-civilian-casualties-rise-following-us-taliban-peace-deal/2020/05/19/18c9e52a-99a6-11ea-ad79-eef7cd734641_story.html. Tensions were exacerbated by a heinous attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul, although the Taliban denied responsibility for the attack. See Ryan Browne & Kylie Atwood, Afghan President Orders Resumption of Offensive Operations Against Taliban in Coup Against Trump`s Deal, CNN (May 12, 2020), www.cnn.com/2020/05/12/politics/afghanistan-taliban-resumption-deal/index.html. These tensions between the Taliban leadership reached their climax on 29 September. February 2020, when political leaders called for a reduction in violence in the run-up to the signing of the agreement. Instead of observing the decline in violence, many of the country`s commanders continued to attack. While these commanders may welcome the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, they are wary of negotiating with a government in Kabul they do not trust.

Although the Taliban derive their main wish from this agreement – the withdrawal of US troops – they have remained vague in their commitments to protect civil rights, which they brutally repressed when they were in power. Aid to Afghanistan. Footnote 55 In mid-May, a power-sharing agreement between the two leaders was finally reached. Footnote 56 The agreement also states that the Taliban and the Afghan government will begin “dialogue and negotiations” on March 10, 2020, a date that has already passed. The specific themes of this “dialogue and negotiations” are not specified, but it is believed that they include at least the role of the Taliban in a future Afghan government, the role of Islamic law in the Afghan constitution, the protection and rights of women and other minorities, and ultimately the leadership of the country. A precursor to intra-Afghan negotiations, the agreement stipulates that the United States agrees to “cooperate with all parties concerned” on the release of combat and political prisoners. The agreement stipulated that the Afghan government would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the Taliban 1,000 Afghan prisoners by March 10, 2020. The release of the prisoners is described as a “confidence-building” to fuel discussions between the Taliban and the Afghan government. 12 First round of US-Taliban peace talks resurrected in Qatar, Al Jazeera (December 7, 2019), www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/resurrected-taliban-peace-talks-open-qatar-191207105319486.html. 16 Mujib Mashal & Lara Jakes, Trump gives conditional green light to peace deal with Taliban, according to officials, N.Y. Times (February 11, 2020), at www.nytimes.com/2020/02/11/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-peace-deal.html.

49 Anne Gearan, Trump speaks by phone with senior Taliban leader, in first between U.S. president and insurgent forces since the start of the war in Afghanistan, Washington Post (March 3, 2020), in www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-taliban-phone-call-baradar/2020/03/03/b2a01a4e-5d87-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Susannah George, the US is targeting the Taliban hours after Trump`s phone call with militant leader Wash. 4, 2020), at www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/us-targets-taliban-with-airstrike-days-after-peace-deal/2020/03/04/6cfa775e-5e0a-11ea-ac50-18701e14e06d_story.html. The agreement called for the withdrawal of all NATO troops from Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban promise to prevent al-Qaeda from operating in Taliban-controlled areas, as well as ongoing talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The U.S. has agreed to an initial reduction in its troop level from 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days (i.e., by July 2020), followed by a full withdrawal within 14 months (i.e., by May 1, 2021) if the Taliban meet their commitments. The United States has also pledged to close five military bases within 135 days and has expressed its intention to end economic sanctions against the Taliban by August 27, 2020. While it is not clear who speaks on behalf of the Afghan government, it is also unclear who speaks on behalf of the Taliban. The Taliban are not a single unified organization, but are made up of various commanders and militias across Afghanistan, many of whom have conflicting ideas about the war and now about the peace agreement. The Taliban leaders who negotiated the peace deal belong to the Taliban leadership group known as Quetta Shura. .