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Setting Conditions for the Right Outcome in Afghanistan
Under President Trump, the U.S. began a negotiated peace process with a preliminary agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government in February 2020. The February agreement included a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with terrorist groups and begin substantive peace negotiations with the current Afghan government, as well as scheduled U.S. troop withdrawal if Taliban conditions are met by May 2021. However, despite a precipitous drop in U.S. troop numbers since the signing of the agreement, it is widely agreed that the Taliban have not followed through on their commitments to engage in substantive negotiations, reduce violence, and end support of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.

The Biden administration is now tasked with deciding how many, how quickly, and under what conditions the remaining U.S. troops will be drawn down in Afghanistan and setting parameters for future support to Afghan security forces and the Afghan government. In mid-February, there will be a critical NATO Defense Ministerial meeting to determine the future of the international presence in Afghanistan, including examining NATO member countries’ collective troop levels and distribution which for the first time outnumber U.S. forces. The NATO meeting presents an opportunity for the Biden administration to send a strong signal about its approach to negotiations and its commitment to a stable outcome in Afghanistan. The United States will need to consider the potential consequences of a hasty troop withdrawal, including the erosion of well-fought gains in women’s education and equal rights amid deteriorating security conditions it will leave behind. The Biden administration has indicated it will review the February agreement, evaluate the Taliban’s adherence to the agreement, and consider leaving a U.S. intelligence presence in Afghanistan to monitor peace talks following a possible troop withdrawal.

Feb 12, 2021 10:00 AM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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