Jyoti Prakash Khan
Kabul didn’t fall on Sunday the 15th of August. It fell 18 months back on Saturday, 29th February, 2020 when the US administration inked a treaty at the Doha Sheraton Hotel in Qatar, with the Taliban which the Taliban multimedia chief claimed as a historic landmark proclaiming “the defeat of the arrogance of the White House in the face of the white turban.”
On that day, the chief American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader, signed a treaty titled as,an “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America”. It was signed on , February 29, 2020 corresponding to Rajab 5, 1441 on the Hijri Lunar calendar and Hoot 10, 1398 on the Hijri Solar calendar.
The four page document basically spelt out the US government’s commitment to walk out of Afghanistan lock stock and barrel within a period of 14 months and facilitate a total takeover by the Taliban (which it fought for 20 long years).
The deal was supported by China, Russia and Pakistan and unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council, curiously enough, it did not involve the government of Afghanistan. The US embassy in Kabul twitted “Today is a monumental day for Afghanistan, It is about making peace and crafting a common brighter future. We stand with Afghanistan”.
And so the American military boarded their U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircrafts and flew home leaving behind a ramshackle Afghan army which quickly disintigrated while their US supplied military hardware fell into the hands of the gun toting gleeful bands of the Taliban militia.
Viewed from the US side,the Doha treaty was meant to be a face saving arrangement, no more, no less. After spending 2 trillion dollars of the American tax payers money and costing 3500 lives of American servicemen and following a failed attempt at nation building spread over 20 long years the US needed to extricate itself out of a situation that had lost relevance since the time of its initial engagement in that region. Despite the whimpering end to the NATO occupation of Afghanistan, the US did manage degrees of salvation by taking out the Al Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden as retaliation for the 9/11 bombings.
Interestingly the Trump administration had signed the Doha treaty with a movement in which an officially listed terrorist group, the Haqqani Network, known for its campaign of suicide bombings, is integral to the Taliban leadership. The network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the Taliban’s deputy leader and military commander.
Since that Saturday , 18 months back the timetable was set for the retake of power by the Taliban. The civilian governments led by Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani were staffed with inefficient and corrupt functionaries. Even the Afghan army and police had thousands of ghost personnel listed in their ranks whose salaries were routinely withdrawn from the government exchequer and the spoils looted by the commanders. So it was no surprise that at the mere sight of vehicles sporting Taliban flags the Afghan army melted away.
Caught between the devil and the deep sea plight of the Afghan people turn out to be perilous as ever. Rule of law, democratic practices, respect for human rights and female education has always been notable anathema for the Taliban. As part of the Doha treaty the US has committed to do the following :
(1) set up the goal of removing sanctions against the Taliban regime
(2) request the recognition and endorsement of the United Nations Security Council for this agreement
(3) seek economic cooperation for reconstruction with the new post- settlement Afghan Islamic government
(4) seek positive relations with each other and expect that the relations between the United States and the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations will be positive.