The US-Taliban deal signed in Doha—ending the longest war any modern country has ever fought (more than 18 years)—is ostensibly meant to give Afghanistan a shot at peace after two long decades. However, reality could be a bit different. Entailing a scaling down of American troops from 14,000 to 8,000 within 19 weeks, what the deal does is accord international legitimisation to the Taliban, which the US came in to finish in the weeks after 9/11.
Not to mention a virtual orphaning of the Afghan Unity government in Kabul, a setup made of people who had sided with the Americans and their NATO allies in this protracted war. One of the first steps towards the realisation of the four-part Doha deal is to set into motion an intra-Afghan dialogue between Ashraf Ghani’s government (not part of the 18-month-long negotiation facilitated by Pakistan) and the Taliban on March 10.
The Ghani regime, which was to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners as against 1,000 captives of their side, has since retracted—saying the clause was put in without consulting it. In short, the deal is already stumbling. For President Ghani, who also has to fight former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah questioning his election, the crisis is manifold. The POWs are probably his only negotiating chip. Afghanistan stands to lose much, including the semblance of democracy and modernity its society has achieved.
Women too stand to lose their freedom and rights if the Taliban orthodoxy ratchets up the bigotry it’s infamous for. US President Donald Trump will go into his poll campaign boasting about having kept his poll promise—ending a fruitless war that has cost $2 trillion. And the Taliban may, perversely, end up more powerful and in control of more Afghan territory than it was in 2001. For the rest, it’s a blind leap of faithlessness. Including India, which stands to lose the leverage it enjoys.