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Biden administration reviews US withdrawal plan from Afghanistan

US force presence in Afghanistan is now at 2,500 service members

Almost a week after National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had made clear the United States' intention to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement, the Joe Biden administration has once again expressed doubts about the Taliban's intentions to reach a political settlement and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, during a Defence Department briefing last night, talked about the attempt at a negotiated settlement between Afghanistan and the Taliban, saying that it would be driven by conditions and requirements there.

"We want an end to the war and want settlements… [and] the best decision for allies and partners, the United States and Afghanistan. We want to do it responsibly," he said, but added that the Taliban have not met their commitments and are not curbing terrorism on Afghans.

"There's been no change to the commitments we made," Kirby said. "We want an end to the war."

Taliban, meanwhile, said that the US assertion is "unfounded" and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) remains committed to all the provisions of the Doha Agreement.

"The claim by the US Department of Defence that no agreement has been implemented is not true. IEA is fully committed to all clauses of Doha agreement and is implementing its part. The implementation of the Doha Agreement is the only way to solve this dilemma. We also strongly ask America to implement the Doha Agreement," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted today.

US force presence in Afghanistan is now at 2,500 service members. The phased withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan was agreed if the Taliban abides by its commitment to prevent the use of Afghan territory by terrorists, works to reduce violence, and enters into Intra-Afghan Negotiations (IAN).

Last week, Sullivan spoke with Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib and conveyed the Biden administration's intention to assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.

Washington has committed to consulting closely with the Government of Afghanistan, NATO allies, and regional partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, and secure future for Afghanistan.

But, is Kabul serious and ready to embrace this opportunity for peace and stability?

The launch of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations on September 12 – aiming for an inclusive political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive peace, has so far not yielded concrete results even as the number of enemy-initiated attacks has risen considerably.

Biden Afghanistan Taliban

A report released by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Thursday stated that a total of 2,958 civilians were killed, and another 5,542 injured, in the country last year. The overall civilian casualties in the past 11 years – from January 2009 to December 2020 – stood at 31,425 killed and 62,067 injured.

The report listed Taliban as the main perpetrator of violence in Afghanistan, being responsible for 53 percent civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2020 and added that it cannot escape the blame of being behind such incidents just by refusing the responsibility for them.

It listed that 'targeted attacks' had witnessed a 169 percent increase in Afghanistan in 2019. In 2019, 834 civilians were killed or injured due to targeted attacks. In 2020, the casualties of this war tactic have risen to 2,250 which includes 1,078 killed and 1,172 injured.

"The Taliban's campaign of unclaimed attacks and targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders & journalists must… cease for peace to succeed," Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, had Tweeted earlier this month.

The NATO-led Resolute Support Mission knows that while Afghanistan has been moving along the path of reconstruction, whatever gains achieved over the last 20 years have come at the cost of high sacrifice.

"One of the most important lessons learnt is a durable peace cannot be imposed: it must emerge from and develop through a shared political, economic and diplomatic process. Even in this very delicate phase, our position has not changed: we will stay in the country with our Allies until necessary, and until the Afghan Institutions and people will ask us to do so, in full compliance with our commitments," Italian Minister of Defence Lorenzo Guerini said in Herat yesterday.