U.S.-Taliban Peace Deal: Progress or Empty Promises?


Kavya Weaver '20 , News Editor

In February of 2020, the American government and the Taliban signed a deal that seeks to end the nearly 18-year conflict in Afghanistan. This historic event marks a step towards bringing lasting peace to the region, but progress towards this vision is undermined by a complicated and deeply contentious political history between the negotiating parties. The following information provides an overview of the conflict and the deal as well as explaining some of the existing and potential challenges to the peace process. 


What is the history of the conflict between the U.S. and Afghanistan?

The conflict between the U.S. and Afghanistan has lasted nearly two decades, making it the longest war in American history. The fighting began when U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attack of 9/11. Although none of the terrorists involved in the bombings were Afghan nationals, Afghanistan served as the base for al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the attack. At the time, the Taliban, who had been ruling Afghanistan since 1996, were protecting al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden. In 2001, the U.S. began a bombing campaign against the Taliban, forcing the fundamentalist group to retreat into Pakistan. To replace the Taliban as Afghanistan’s ruling body, the U.S. supported the creation of an interim government that was arranged by the United Nations. Following this governmental transition, a clash ensued between Taliban and al-Qaeda militants who were trying to overthrow the interim government and U.S. and Afghan forces seeking to defeat the militants and rebuild Afghanistan. In 2014, American forces “ended their combat mission and passed on security responsibilities to the Afghan army and police. However, around seventeen thousand NATO troops, including U.S. service members, stayed in the country to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces” (Council on Foreign Relations). However, in 2017, the fighting re-escalated in response to the resurgence of the Taliban and the Islamic State in the country. Between 2017 and 2018, extreme violence and prolific bombing erupted between American forces and the Taliban, tragically causing the deaths of hundreds of civilians and prompting the vying parties to pursue a path to peace. After two unsuccessful attempts at a peace deal in 2019, representatives from the U.S. and the Taliban finally signed a peace deal on February 29th of this year. 


What are the effects of the war?

Besides the political implications, this conflict has had a major humanitarian and economic toll. Since 2001, over 157,000 people have been killed in the fighting, including 43,000 Afghan civilians, 2,400 Americans, and 45,000 Afghan troops and police officers. Additionally, the war forced over 2.5 million Afghan refugees to flee from their homes. This conflict also cost the United States an estimated $2 trillion. 


What are the main points of the peace deal?

The mission of the peace deal is to bring about four main goals: 

  • A cease-fire between U.S., Taliban, and Afghan forces.
  • The withdrawal of U.S. troops over the next several months; if the Taliban upholds its commitments, all foreign forces will leave Afghanistan within 14 months. 
  • The beginning of negotiations and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which the terrorist group previously resisted because it considered the Afghan government an “American puppet.”
  • The halt of terrorism in Afghanistan – the Taliban has promised to eliminate terrorist activity in Afghanistan by any of its members, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State. 

U.S. officials also emphasized the protection of women’s rights, which the Taliban has severely abused in the past.


Have the agreements in the deal been successfully enforced so far?

No. In fact, just days after the deal was signed, “a U.S. drone attacked the group in retaliation for a series of attacks on Afghan troops. And on March 6th, at least 32 civilians were killed, dozens injured when Afghan gunmen opened fire in Kabul. The self-proclaimed Islamic State – or ISIS – claimed responsibility for that attack” (NPR). Additionally, the Taliban and Afghan government have not been cooperating according to their respective commitments. The Taliban resumed offensive operations against the government’s security forces. In addition to this clash, Afghan and Taliban leaders are refusing to communicate with each other because they are feuding over a prisoner exchange. Another challenge is that Afghanistan lacks a strong, centralized government, making it difficult for Afghan leaders to represent a legitimate and unified power amidst the political turmoil. This eruption of fighting does not bode well for the future of the peace deal; however, the possibility of conflict resolution is not yet completely ruled out. There is still hope for civil negotiations between the involved parties.