Peace deal, at last!
Any war has its price. People and resources constitute a major part of that price. With more than 3,500 American and allied forces as well as at least 10,000 of Afghan troops killed, the US-Taliban conflict produces a staggering estimate of around $2 trillion. Of course, that figure of lives lost is only 2009 onwards when the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting casualties. In a sense, it provides for a rough estimate of how bloody and devastating has been the Afghanistan campaign for US — its longest war in history. The 18-year war in Afghanistan that began after 9/11 and has kept the country and its people bereft of tranquillity ever since. The long doom that dawned upon Afghanistan in October of 2001 when US and allied forces invaded the country with the objective of ridding it from the Taliban — touted as the de facto leader of the country — has apparently reached a point of culmination on Saturday. America finally signed a peace deal with the Taliban after over a year of troubled negotiations in Doha in the presence of many international delegates. While many applauded, the deal is largely termed as just the beginning of the process to bring actual peace to the region. The deal reserves commitments on both sides and can only function if mutually respected. That is how all peace treaties work in essence. While history has witnessed wars despite peace treaties, it is important to take note of ambitions on either side that will warrant full compliance with the deal that was signed on Saturday. Both the US and the Taliban have to hold on to their ends of the deal. The agreement firstly paves way for the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in a stipulated timeline of 14 months in exchange to a Taliban guarantee not allowing militant groups such as al-Qaeda to operate; thereby liberating the Afghan soil from more than two-decades-long insurgency. Second, the deal calls for the beginning of the intra-Afghan dialogue by March 10. Thirdly, 1,000 Afghan and 5,000 Taliban prisoners to be released from both ends. And, finally, a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire calling for perpetual tranquillity. The deal in its wordings is perhaps the simplest and most relevant, yet in its nature a bit concerning. The US spearheaded the development in the deal with a joint statement alongside the Afghan government released minutes before the deal was signed which says that America will bring down its troop strength stationed at Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days. The joint statement also added that the Afghan government will engage with the United Nations Security Council "to remove Taliban members from sanctions list by May 29". America's enthusiasm for withdrawing from Afghanistan also stems from its President's promise of bringing back its soldiers home in what has been a generation of loss and trauma without any victory as such. America has been no stranger to wars or the war-weary soldiers who have been exposed to battleground despite being born in an age of apparent peace. From Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan and even Syria, the US has sent countless troops abroad in return for a most passive of outcomes. Of course, Trump's promise of bringing troops home also heavily uplifts his odds at re-election in this year's presidential elections. As for the Taliban which now controls or holds influence over more Afghan territories than at any point since 2001, the deal will see them abstain from everyday attacks against military outposts as it sits with the Afghan government to chalk out a peace plan.
Above anything, the peace deal brings a sense of stability to the region that has not known peace for a long long time. While each party to the deal will have the benefit of desisting war, and collateral damage, they would further benefit the soil from their de-escalation activities, allowing it to tread a path of prosperity. Absence of foreign powers and militants will allow the country to make headways towards development. Like other parts of the world, Afghans will get the opportunity to collectively build a strong nation and subsequently prosper. Taliban on backfoot will be a major blow for terror launchpads that have circumstantially made the Afghan-Pakistan region home to terror outfits. While the Taliban pursuing such a deal is historic in itself, a defection of factions from the outfit's official word could jeopardise the entire accord. It is here that the Taliban has to ensure complete compliance and respect the deal in nature and spirit. A peace deal is always a progressive step. The US and the Taliban have both made a huge stride in history by going for peace and it would be a shame if either of them fails to live up to their end of the deal.