The head of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, published an open letter to the United States Tuesday urging it to withdraw its military from Afghanistan, as the administration of President Donald Trump had committed to doing in a peace deal that also required the Taliban to stop associating with international terrorist groups.
In exchange for the Taliban distancing itself from al-Qaeda and similar jihadist groups, and ceasing its attacks on U.S. forces, the peace deal brokered by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would have seen American troops fully withdraw from Afghanistan as early as May 2021. President Joe Biden has not committed to abiding by that timeline and his officials have questioned the Taliban’s adherence to the commitments in the peace deal. While the Taliban has diminished their attacks on American forces – U.S. forces marked a year without a combat death in the country in early February – extensive evidence suggests the Taliban has maintained ties with international jihadist groups, including al-Qaeda.
The Taliban chief wrote to American leaders:
We are fully confident that the Afghans themselves can achieve the establishment of an Islamic government and enduring peace and security through intra-Afghan dialogue.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban] is sincerely committed to finding a political solution to the ongoing conflict and therefore, took the initiative by opening a political office in the nation of Qatar towards this end.
“Now that a year has passed since the signing of the Doha agreement, we urge the American side to remain committed to the full implementation of this accord,” Baradar urged.
The Taliban leader also added an assurance that, should Afghanistan return to full rule under the Taliban, the jihadists were “committed to upholding and guaranteeing all rights of women afforded to them by Islamic law.”
“We would like to once again assure the international community in this regard,” Baradar insisted.
Under the strict implementation of sharia, or the Islamic law, the Taliban severely repressed the rights of Afghan women during their rule, including restrictions on movement, freedom of association, work, education, and nearly every aspect of their lives.
The peace deal brokered last year was meant primarily to result in as peaceful a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country as possible but left many key disputes between the Afghan government in Kabul and the Taliban unaddressed. The Taliban do not recognize the legitimacy of the Afghan government and considers itself the true government of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” It has transparently asserted its mission to erase the influence of Kabul to the best of its ability and escalated attacks against Afghan forces while diminishing attacks on U.S. troops and civilians.
The Afghan government’s negotiating team lamented that talks had taken a turn away from “serious” commitments in remarks this week, suggesting that without the presence of U.S. troops, Kabul and the Taliban are irreconcilable.
“The approach that convinced the Taliban is that they have said that the emirate system will return,” meaning the Afghan government would cease to exist in its current state, negotiator Mateen Bek said this week. “[A]nd the Americans are serious about leaving—so what is the need for talks?”
Adding more tension to the situation, Edmund Fitton-Brown, the head of a U.N. panel monitoring the Taliban, accused the group on Wednesday of maintaining close ties to al-Qaeda.
“We believe that the top leadership of Al-Qaeda is still under Taliban protection … There is still clearly a close relationship between Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” the official contended, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News. The U.N. estimates that hundreds of al-Qaeda jihadists benefit from Taliban protection in Afghanistan.
The United States invaded Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, jihadist attacks orchestrated by al-Qaeda, toppling the Taliban for their role in enabling the terrorist organization and harboring its leader, Osama bin Laden.
The Taliban’s refusal to cut ties with al-Qaeda has complicated America’s exit from the war theory, Biden administration officials have warned.
“If the violence isn’t reduced, it’s going to make a peace process very, very difficult; it would be very difficult for any side to make the necessary compromises,” Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Reuters this week.
The State Department has also hinted at the Biden administration reviewing the Trump-era Taliban deal, hinting at a possible exit. Taliban representatives have stated that they remain optimistic Biden will keep the agreement but have threatened further violence if American forces remain in the country past May.