Concerns about the Taliban peace agreement do not outweigh its significance

The comprehensive peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban will hopefully, finally, end the long war in Afghanistan. The agreement is far from perfect (no treaty ever is, if we’re honest) however it’s a good start at preventing further loss of American and Afghani lives.

Detractors to the agreement, specifically Stephen Hayes at The Dispatch, raise salient points regarding certain particulars of the treaty. The nebulously phrased “economic cooperation,” is troublesome. Hayes’ concern is money ends up in the hands of the Taliban. Any comprehensive peace agreement in Afghanistan likely includes the Taliban. A Taliban leader will get richer, and the only way for the U.S. to avoid it is to not rebuild the country as it did under the post-World War II Marshall Plan.

The other worry brought up by Jazz is whether it’s worth trusting the Taliban. This concern is also shared by Afghanistan Analysts Network whose co-director told The Guardian she did not believe the Taliban was planning for a new phase of their fight against the Afghanistan government.

The anxiety makes sense. This is the group that harbored Osama bin Laden and refused past talks with a more amenable Afghanistan government. Taliban soldiers kept attacking U.S. soldiers during ongoing negotiations between both sides. It’s unwise, however, to put the blame simply on the Taliban. U.S. Air Force activity in the region increased from 2017 to 2020. Afghani civilians have died due to action by both sides of the conflict. War, as they say, is hell.

Yet, a mutual trust under certain conditions is the point of peace agreements. Taliban leaders are saying the right things at the moment. Whether they will in the future is up for debate.

The bigger question centers on negotiations between the U.S., the Taliban, and the Afghan government. The latter is in chaos. Foreign Policy reported a definite splinter following last year’s presidential election where populist candidate Abdullah Abdullah lost, again, to modernist candidate Ashraf Ghani.

The legitimacy problem is an abiding one; this is the third presidential election in [a] row in which Abdullah has refused to accept the official results and accused his opponent of fraud. In 2009, Abdullah lost against former President Hamid Karzai. In 2014, it was Ghani who beat Abdullah after a runoff. In the end, then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had to intervene several times personally to reconcile the opponents. Until today, many government critics believe that it was not the vote of the Afghan people that made Ghani president but Kerry’s decision.

Abdullah is threatening to take the oath of office and declare himself president. Reuters reported last week the U.S. wants Ghani to hold off his inauguration due to the instability. It appears the U.S. may end up playing president-maker again, in some way, shape, or form. Especially since Ghani appeared with Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday. The Taliban may be playing ‘wait and see’ on who ends up in power before committing to anything else.

The U.S. needs everyone at the negotiating table to reach a peace deal. The agreement signed Saturday is a first step towards accomplishing this goal. The process will take time, however, it does not mean the current treaty between the U.S. and the Taliban is the impetus for more war.

My concern is two-fold. The U.S. may spend more money we don’t have to rebuild the country, and the Trump Administration will refrain from sending the treaty to the Senate for a constitutionally-authorized vote. It matters not the previous administration made similar moves regarding the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Senate needs to vote on the peace deal.

The rest looks decent. American, Taliban, and civilian casualties are likely to reduce and an almost 20-year-old war ends. Let’s get the troops out. It’s time to move on.