The Taliban say they expect President-elect Joe Biden to stick to a peace agreement the insurgent group sealed with the United States earlier this year to end the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest.
The February 29 landmark pact negotiated by President Donald Trump’s administration has set in motion a “conditions-based” withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan by May 2021. The U.S. military has since cut the size of its troop presence to 4,500 soldiers, from around 13,000 at the time of the signing of the deal and vacated several Afghan bases.
“It (the agreement) serves the interest of the Afghan nation and the interest of the American nation. It should not be subject to any significant change and should be implemented in the form in which it is agreed upon,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem told VOA when asked for his comments on the fate of the pact under the next U.S. president.
“It is our expectation that the ongoing peace process and the agreement with the U.S. government will remain on track,” Naeem said. He spoke to VOA from Qatar’s capital, Doha, where the Taliban maintains its political office.
The agreement requires the Taliban to not attack international forces and to prevent transnational terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida and Islamic State, from operating in Afghanistan. It has also opened first-ever direct peace talks between the insurgent group and representatives of the Afghan government, which was not part of the U.S.-Taliban deal.
Doha is hosting what are officially known as intra-Afghan peace negotiations, which began September 12 but have stalled for the most part because of disputes between Taliban and Afghan negotiators over procedural matters.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, congratulating Biden on his election victory, said Sunday that ties between Kabul and Washington are expected to deepen in areas of counterterrorism and building peace.
“Afghanistan looks forward to continuing/deepening our multilayered strategic partnership w/ the United States -- our foundational partner -- including in counterterrorism & bringing peace to Afghanistan," Ghani wrote on Twitter.
Ordinary Afghans also welcomed Biden’s victory, hoping the president-elect might slow the U.S. troop withdrawal to allow for a stable peace to take root, as opposed to Trump who said in a recent statement that he would like all American troops to be home by Christmas.
Biden said during his campaign that if he were elected, he would maintain a small troop presence in Afghanistan to ensure al-Qaida and Islamic State terrorists do not threaten the United States from the war-ravaged country. But he opposed continued U.S. involvement in Afghan nation-building.
In a February debate among U.S. Democratic presidential hopefuls, Biden drew strong criticism from Afghans for saying that “there’s no possibility of uniting” Afghanistan.
The Taliban, however, maintains that it wants all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan for a durable peace deal between Afghanistan rivals to take roots that ends the war.