The U.S.-Taliban Deal, Explained

On February 29th, the United States and the Taliban entered into an agreement that would see the complete pullout of US troops from Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban would renounce international terrorist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and prevent those groups from plotting foreign attacks from Afghan soil.

The agreement was negotiated directly between the United States and the Taliban. The Afghan government, which the United States is ostensibly in Afghanistan to support, was deliberately excluded from these negotiations.  The hope is that an “inter-Afghan” dialogue can soon begin between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.

This is most definitely not a peace deal

Despite how this has been characterized in some quarters of the media this is very much not a peace deal, says my guest today Michael Kugelman,  senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center.  His point was underscored in the days following the deal when the Taliban launched several attacks in Afghanistan and the United States conducted an airstrike on Taliban fighters. In fact, a few hours before we spoke, there was a major attack at a political rally in Kabul.

So what did this agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban of Afghanistan achieve, if not for a reduction in violence? In this episode of the Global Dispatches podcast, Michael Kugelman explains what is included in the deal, what is not included, and what this agreement means for the future of Afghanistan. He explains why some key issues like a prisoner exchange and the precipitous withdrawal of US forces might undermine the position of the Afghan government in coming talks with the Taliban, and offers some useful analysis of the domestic political considerations in Washington, DC that drove these negotiations.

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If you are interested in this topic, you may also be interested in the Global Dispatches podcast interview with Zalmay Khalilzad, the American official and former US Ambassador to the United Nations who led the negotiations with the Taliban. 

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