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Will peace ever return to Afghanistan?

I began writing this article by asking if anyone was willing to bet on when the shooting would start again in Afghanistan after the signing of the US-Taliban peace deal. Then came news that the shooting had already begun and by Tuesday evening the Afghan government reported 33 Taliban attacks. And finally, by evening, the Taliban issued a statement saying the temporary ceasefire was only for foreign troops. It would be business — and hostilities — as usual against the Afghan army.

The only question that remains is: Why didn’t the Americans just pack their bags and leave without bothering about the formality of a deal? The three-page agreement is about as much of a non-deal as might be possible.

The clearest aspect of the pact, aimed at ending the longest war in US history, is the timetable for Americans to cut and run from Afghanistan.

The Americans have said in 135 days — mid-July — they’ll reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan from around 13,000 to 8,600. The remaining troops will also be out in another 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban has promised it will negotiate with the Afghan government on a power-sharing accord and prevent the Al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks.

Worst of all, the Americans have given up the pretence of worrying about the Afghans. The Afghan people barely get a mention and that includes all those favourite American issues that they were ostensibly in Afghanistan to promote, like democracy, women’s rights and education. And they’ve done a deal with the Taliban who still believe in a strict form of Islamic justice and government and have offered no guarantees to protect civil rights.

Then, there’s the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani that’s been tossed far out into the cold and isn’t part of the deal between the US and the strangely named “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognised by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban”.

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