ISLAMABAD - Through an "open letter," the Taliban is urging U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration Tuesday to stick to a 2020 troop withdrawal peace agreement, describing it as “the most effective way of ending” the war in Afghanistan.
The insurgent group’s chief peacemaker, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, addressed the letter to the American public, asking U.S. citizens to hold their government to account over implementing the terms of the agreement the two sides sealed last year in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on Feb. 29.
The letter underscored “the effectiveness and success” of the ongoing peace process stemming from the deal. Baradar defended the arrangement, saying it “significantly reduced” insurgent battlefield operations and helped launch peace talks among Afghan parties to the conflict.
“Now that a year has passed since the signing of the Doha agreement, we urge the American side to remain committed to the full implementation of this accord,” wrote Baradar, who heads the Taliban’s political office in the Qatari capital.
The pact, which Baradar inked with representatives of former U.S. President Donald Trump, requires all U.S. and NATO troops as well as other individuals associated with the war effort, to leave Afghanistan by May.
The Biden administration currently is in the process of reviewing whether the Taliban is living up to its commitments before deciding to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and end what has been the longest war in U.S. history.
On Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed concerns that the insurgents do not intend to seek a peaceful settlement to the conflict. Stoltenberg said the alliance will not remove troops from the country “before the time is right,” and he urged the Taliban to do more to allow for the possible drawdown of roughly 10,000 foreign forces.
“Peace talks remain fragile, and the level of violence remains unacceptably high, including Taliban attacks on civilians," the NATO chief noted. “The Taliban must reduce violence, negotiate in good faith and live up to their commitment to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups.”
NATO defense ministers will meet Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the future of the alliance’s presence in Afghanistan in line with the U.S.-Taliban agreement.
The deal binds the insurgents to cut ties with transnational groups that threaten the United States and its allies. The Taliban also has pledged to agree on a political understanding in the intra-Afghan peace talks that would end decades of hostilities in the country.
Afghan leaders allege the insurgents are dragging their feet in the talks and intend to seize power through military means once all U.S.-led foreign forces have left the country.
The Afghan government also accuses the Taliban of being behind a recent wave of high-profile assassinations of officials, civilian society activists and journalists.
The insurgent group rejects the charges, alleging the violence is the work of Afghan security institutions in their bid to spoil the U.S.-initiated peace process.
The intra-Afghan dialogue began in Doha last September, but a second round has been suspended since early last month.
Baradar, in his letter Tuesday, said Afghans are capable of solving their internal issues, apparently trying to convey to Washington that his group opposes to any external pressure on how to conduct the peace talks.
He wrote that the Taliban “does not interfere in the internal affairs of others, neither does it want to harm others, nor will it allow anyone else to interfere in our own affairs.”
Baradar reaffirmed his radical group’s commitment to finding a negotiated settlement to the conflict with Afghan rivals, pledged to uphold the rights of women and support freedom of speech “within the framework of Islamic laws and principles.”