One could be forgiven for wondering, what’s the rush? After all, the U.S. has been engaged in a conflict in Afghanistan with the Taliban for nearly two decades. Yet the agreement the U.S. signed over the weekend with the Taliban includes a key provision to start releasing thousands of prisoners beginning March 10th.
That happens to be the date when the Taliban has agreed to start formal talks with the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, which it has never recognized as legitimate (until now).
The key moving parts of the deal are the U.S. agrees to pull out troops, remove economic sanctions on top Taliban leaders and release Taliban fighters IF the Taliban promises to stop aiding al-Qaeda and other international terror groups.
“The United States is committed to start immediately to work with all relevant sides on a plan to expeditiously release combat and political prisoners as a confidence building measure with the coordination and approval of all relevant sides,” according to the agreement, "Up to five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and up to one thousand (1,000) prisoners of the other side will be released by March 10, 2020, the first day of intra-Afghan negotiations.”
Critics of the deal say the U.S. has conceded too much, and will jeopardize national security.
Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican and House GOP conference chair said, “Releasing thousands of Taliban fighters, lifting sanctions on international terrorists, and agreeing to withdraw all U.S. forces in exchange for promises from the Taliban, with no disclosed mechanism to verify Taliban compliance, would be reminiscent of the worst aspects of the Obama Iran nuclear deal.”
The four-page agreement explicitly guarantees the Taliban won’t offer any assistance to terrorist groups or tolerate their presence in Afghanistan, but no one is sure how the U.S. and the international community will be able to observe and enforce those promises.
Is the U.S. getting anything tangible in return? The only real compromise it appears the Taliban was willing to make is how it is referred to in the agreement.
Per the Washington Times, throughout the past 18 months of negotiations, the Taliban had insisted the U.S. recognize it as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the official name of the government before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
However, throughout the agreement, the Taliban is called “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban.”
A rose by any other name…
Time will tell. But we know for sure one more day on the battlefield is one day too many for the families of those serving. We look forward to the safe return of all 13,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan.