The US-Taliban ‘bad’ deal
While bidding farewell to the longest lasting war in Afghanistan, the United States and the Afghan Taliban came to an agreement on a cease-fire of the war in early 2020, and later to bring the Taliban into the political system of Afghanistan. A plethora of crucial points are addressed in the agreement and a commitment from the Taliban to ban militant groups that poses a threat to the US or allies, tops the list.
An inclusive form of government, women’s rights and peace in general are discussed, but anything other than that is an ‘internal matter of Afghanistan.’
The US on its own, started and ended the war in Afghanistan but what has been achieved? Over these two decades of war, the US has failed to build a political system in Afghanistan, an army, or the country’s poor infrastructure-- in fact it failed to weaken its claimed enemy, the Taliban. Rather, the US had to negotiate with the Taliban at the end for an exit and to save face.
The Afghan government which has been sponsored by the US and the international community for two decades was abandoned, and forced to accept what the US had negotiated with the Taliban in Doha.
The Taliban government found itself in economic shackles owing to a freezing of the assets by the international community that feels the Taliban should “do more and that they should act democratically.”
In a state like Afghanistan that has not experienced real democratic process, poverty ridden people don’t revolt against the state but become more dependent on it for basic survival.
Afghanistan’s assets worth around $10 billion have been frozen by the US. Only $3.5 billion, it is announced, will be released and the remainder will be kept as a tool against terrorism-related lawsuits and human rights violations. Both parties have violated what had been agreed on in Doha.
It takes time for change to happen. The Taliban government has depicted efforts to fulfil the commitment of a fight against militant groups; an imminent concern for the US and its allies. John Mearshmeir’s theory of ‘Liberal hegemony’ suits what the US is trying to do best. He maintains that liberal hegemony is bound to fail because it is crucial to distinguish between liberalism at home and liberalism abroad.
The harrowing experience of the Oil for Food program in Iraq set up by the United Nations cannot be repeated, where oil was exchanged for basic food and clothing by ordinary Iraqis. It was an embarrassing effort to ‘help’ Iraqi citizens while keeping the military impotent. The US is repeating itself in Afghanistan.
Sanctions on assets in Afghanistan are proving to be counterintuitive. Instead of putting pressure on an autocratic state to change its behavior, the economic disaster makes it a perfect opportunity to look elsewhere for help. Especially in a state like Afghanistan that has not experienced real democratic process, poverty ridden people don’t revolt against the state but become more dependent on it for basic survival.
The US should not live in denial for longer. The Taliban government is today’s reality in Afghanistan and they will rule the country for the foreseeable future. The US neither has the strategic ambition to once again over-stretch itself in the region nor is it legitimate enough to micro-manage the affairs of Afghanistan.
The US cannot wash its hands of the chaos that ensues in Afghanistan today. The people of Afghanistan cannot be punished for America’s highly misguided and overly-ambitious policy choice in Afghanistan. Tough decisions have to be made. A leap of faith has to be taken. The collapse of a country’s economy and its people can be prevented and the ball is in America’s court.
- Naila Mahsud is a Pakistani political and International relations researcher, with a focus on regional politics and security issues. Twitter: @MahsudNaila