The Taliban has called on President-elect Joe Biden to honour a US agreement to withdraw all the American forces from Afghanistan by May in order to secure intra-Afghan peace talks and end two-decade-long war.
“Steps must now be taken to end the war, not to prolong it, and the agreement was made for the purpose,” Mohammad Naeem, a senior spokesman in the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said, referring to their accord with the US signed last February which paves the way for a complete withdrawal of American troops by May in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. “The lack of complete implementation of the agreement can affect the ongoing process of negotiations,” he added.
The call from the insurgent group comes just days after the US reduced its troop levels from 4,500 to 2,500 at President Donald Trump’s direction, despite opposition from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers who’ve warned of the potential impact on counter-terrorism operations. Naeem cheered the reduction on Twitter, saying the move was a “good advancement.”
While it’s unclear whether Biden will withdraw all US troops by the May deadline, his nominee for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told CNN early this month the new administration would support “diplomacy” with the Taliban, urging the insurgent group to cut ties with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, ensure a reduction in violence and participate in “good-faith negotiations” with the Afghan government.
Andrew Watkins, a senior analyst with International Crisis Group, said the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline is the biggest early challenge for the peace process and the most urgent decision for the incoming Biden team.
“If the Biden administration ignores the deadline set down in the US-Taliban agreement without discussing and clearing a delay with the insurgents, the Taliban will almost certainly respond by escalating their use of force — either via attacks on population centers, facilities housing international troops or both,” Watkins said.