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article imageOp-Ed: New Afghan Taliban US peace deal rumored to have secret annexes

By Ken Hanly     Feb 27, 2020 in Politics
The US is reported to be about to sign an Afghan peace deal with the Taliban but there are concerns that the deal contains secret annexes with provisions and language that could threaten the carrying out of the deal.
Deal due to be signed on February 29
According to a recent article the US will sign the Afghan peace agreement with the Taliban on February 29th in Doha Qatar. The agreement will pave the way for a US troop withdrawal and talks with Afghan government members and the Taliban. However, the signing is contingent upon a seven-day reduction in violence period holding. Trump had backed out of an earlier deal with the Taliban last September after a US soldier was killed in a Taliban operation. However, there had been no agreed upon ceasefire and both sides had continued attacks.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that challenges remained but the progress made in the Doha talks provided hope and a real opportunity for peace. He called on all Afghans to seize the moment.
The deal
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad
has been negotiating for months but the deal is finally taking shape. The Taliban have agreed to a week reduction in violence against US and Afghan troops that started Friday at midnight. In return the US will withdraw much of its forces from the country. However, the Taliban has always demanded that all foreign forces must withdraw from Afghanistan but the US insists that it wants to keep a force in the country to carry out counter-terrorism operations. In public at least the Taliban have never agreed to such a demand.
The alleged secret annexes
According to reports a secret annex to the agreement includes language that says that the US is not going to completely withdraw militarily from Afghanistan. It is suggested that this annex was accepted by the Taliban on condition that it remain a secret.
There were conflicting responses to the report Both Defense Secretary Mark Esper and General Mark Milley both claimed that they had no idea if there were ultimately any secret annexes. However, Esper did say he knew that there were annexes to the deal but had no idea whether there were any secret annexes. He said he would ask the Secretary of State at some point. Of course if anyone admits there are secret annexes then they are hardly secret except that what exactly they say might not be known or impossible to adequately confirm.
When pressed about the issue by Rep Liz Cheney, Esper said: “Nothing comes to mind right now, that you’re mentioning., I know there’s the base agreement and some annexes. I don’t know if those have been agreed upon as secret or something but I will certainly raise that with the secretary of state.”
If the annex is correct, the question is how many US troops would remain. In 2011 US troop presence was at its peak with about 100,000. Now there are just about 13,000 over half the 23,000 foreign troops still there. An anonymous senior US State Department official said that the US could withdraw its troops in phases but would be certain to leave some special forces to launch attacks on targets it believed threatened peace. Given that terrorist groups in Afghanistan are basically in survival mode the government may be unwilling to have foreign forces remain even for limited counter-terrorism operations.
It is estimated that the US has spent $900 billion on its longest lasting war yet the Taliban are as strong as they have ever been since the US ousted them from power. The group controls or contests about half the country. Perhaps the US will finally decide that enough is enough and their next move should be to withdraw completely. Leaving a token force seems to be far from useful except perhaps as showing that the US still has some power in Afghanistan.
Four secret annexes
The first secret annex dealt with the US keeping a counter-terrorism force in the country. A second annex has the Taliban denouncing terrorism and violent extremism. The third annex sets out a mechanism to monitor whether all sides are honoring the semi-truce while talks between Afghan parties are going on. A fourth annex tackles the problem of how the USA will operate in Taliban-controlled areas. One wonders how reliable the sources are that claim there are these four annexes. The first and last annexes are ones the Taliban would not likely to agree to even as a secret annex.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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