Fri, 14 Aug 2020

LONDON, UK - The only element of the Afghan peace plan going according to schedule is the withdrawal of American forces as the Taliban have continued their attack on soldiers and civilians and are not serious for intra-Afghan dialogues, The Economist reported.

The Donald Trump administration in February signed a peace deal with the Taliban under which it pledged to reduce their troops' strength in war-torn Afghanistan.

In exchange, the Taliban promised to cease providing shelter to foreign terrorist groups.

According to The Economist, the element of the deal where the Taliban agreed to stop providing support to other terrorist groups is proceeding much less smoothly.

According to a congressionally mandated Pentagon report released on Wednesday, since the Trump administration's signing of the US-Taliban agreement in February, the Taliban increased violence levels "above historical norms," targeting Afghan military and police convoys and outposts while refraining from attacking major cities or US and coalition personnel, CNN reported.

The Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) "routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan government and maintains an enduring interest in attacking US forces and Western targets in the region," the report said, adding "despite recent progress in the peace process, AQIS maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Under the peace deal, the Taliban had to start with Intra-Afghan talks immediately. But the "process immediately bogged down," The Economist reported.

The government and the Taliban bickered over a prisoner exchange outlined in the deal. America had promised that the Afghan government, which was not a party to the agreement, would release "up to" 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill. The Taliban, in return, were to free 1,000 policemen and soldiers it held captive.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that releasing 5,000 prisoners was too many, but the Taliban were adamant.

Another sticking point has been the Taliban's continuing attacks on soldiers and civilians.

The Afghan government has said that the group carried out 422 attacks in a single week in June. "This breaks a promise to reduce violence, the American and Afghan authorities say. But if the Taliban made such a pledge, it was only in private: the text of the deal did not spell out any truce," The Economist said in a report.

According to the report, some Afghans believe that the Taliban's refusal to elaborate on their stances is a sign that they are not serious about negotiations, and plan to attempt to seize power by force once the Americans are gone. Others assume that divisions within the organisation make it hard to stake out clear positions.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the situation direr in the country. "The disease is said to be barrelling through the Afghan security services. The American troops who remain in Afghanistan are providing less training to the Afghan Army in part to avoid catching it from their Afghan comrades," the report said. (ANI)

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