The Biden administration has hinted at reviewing a deal with the Taliban signed by former President Donald Trump as violence increased in Afghanistan in recent months.
Under the deal signed in Qatar in February last year, the US has to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the Taliban and a commitment to initiate peace talks with the Afghan government.
Washington had committed to reducing the number of its troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days of signing the deal, and working with its allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces over the same period. At present, there are 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan.
But violence has soared across Afghanistan despite peace talks since September.
President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, spoke with his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib and “made clear the United States’ intention to review” the deal, said National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne.
She said Washington wants to ensure that the Taliban are “living up to [their] 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”.
She said that Sullivan has assured that the US will continue diplomatic support to the peace process aiming at helping the sides achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent ceasefire. Sullivan also discussed Washington’s support for protecting recent progress made on women and minority groups’ rights as part of the peace process, she added.
The statement is in line with Biden’s stance on Afghanistan, who has stated that while he would reduce the number of combat troops in Afghanistan, he would not withdraw US military presence.
Biden’s state secretary, Anthony Blinken, had also hinted in his confirmation hearing that surge in violence in Afghanistan may lead to US retaining some of it troops.
He had said the US would retain some capacity to deal with any upsurge of terrorism. “We have to look carefully at what has actually been negotiated. I haven’t been privy to it yet.”
He, however, said that “we want to end this so-called forever war”.
Biden’s stance has eased tension of officials in Kabul who were speculating over how the new administration would deal with the Afghan issue.
Mohib, the Afghan national security adviser, tweeted that during the call the two sides “agreed to work toward a permanent ceasefire and a just and durable peace” in the country.
Another Afghan government official criticised the Taliban, saying the agreement had failed to achieve its goals.
“The agreement so far, did not deliver a desired goal of ending Taliban’s violence and bringing a ceasefire desired by the Afghans,” Sediq Sediqqi, Deputy Interior Minister and former spokesman to President Ashraf Ghani said on Twitter.
Deadly attacks and high-profile assassinations have increased in recent months, particularly in Kabul where several journalists, activists, judges and politicians have been killed.
The Taliban have denied responsibility for these killings, but Afghan and US officials have blamed them for the murders.