Afghan rivals sign power-sharing deal as political crisis subsidesApprox Read Time: 7 minutes
- A power sharing deal has been signed between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main political rival Abdullah Abdullah, ending months of political uncertainty.
News Summary: Afghan rivals sign power-sharing deal as political crisis subsides
- The deal ends a political crisis that cast a major shadow over efforts to end the Afghanistan’s long war with the Taliban.
- The new agreement splits up responsibilities between the leaders in a way that fits the two leaders’ strengths.
Key features of the agreement:
- President Ashraf Ghani gave Abdullah the leading role in seeking peace with the Taliban in a new role as chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and the ability to name half the cabinet.
- The Reconciliation Council has been given the authority to handle and approve all affairs related to Afghanistan’s peace process.
- A High Council of Governance will be formed which will give major political leaders a role in advising the president in hopes of shaping a united front as Afghanistan seeks an endgame with the Taliban.
- Further, a technical team will work on the implementation of the agreement and details will be shared later.
Background of the Political instability in Afghanistan:
- In September 2019, tensions in Afghanistan had risen after Abdullah, who served as “chief executive” (from September 2014 to September 2019) in the Afghan government headed by Ghani, refused to accept the results of the polls which declared Ghani the winner.
- In March 2020, both Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah sworn themselves in as presidents in parallel ceremonies.
- They have been locked in a power struggle since then and the standoff complicated Afghan negotiations with the insurgents after the United States agreed with the Taliban to begin a phased troop withdrawal.
- As international pressure grew and the Taliban appeared to be benefiting from the political disarray, the two sides began talks to find a way out.
Background of U.S-Taliban talks over a peace deal:
- Ending the 18-year long conflict has been considered too costly. Thus, the decision to talk to the Taliban was taken during the Obama presidency.
- The Doha office (in Qatar) of the Taliban was established for negotiations.
- The Taliban have long maintained that they would negotiate only with the US not with the Afghan government. However, the US has insisted that the Afghan government should be involved in the process.
- Thus, several attempts at holding discussions to end the war not progressed.
- By the middle of 2018, the US started pushing for direct talks with the Taliban urgently (in line with President Trump’s agenda to withdraw troops from Afghanistan).
- President Ashraf Ghani’s government was not included in the US-Taliban talks as this was the Taliban precondition for the talks.
- The U.S and the Taliban have held several rounds of talks since 2018 with the objective is to narrow the gap between opposing positions and hold broader, more formal negotiations to end the war.
About: US- Taliban Agreement
- The US and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan/Taliban (not recognized by the United States as a state) agreement for “Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” was signed on 29th Feb 2020, which provides an exit route for the U.S. from its military campaign in Afghanistan than about ending violence in the country.
- Pact between U.S -Taliban: The pact was signed between Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political head of the Taliban.
- Joint Declaration between U.S.- Afghan Government: Separately, a joint declaration between the Afghan government (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) and the US was issued in Kabul.
Key elements of the agreement:
- Troops withdrawal:
- The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously.
- All troops will be out within 14 months including the non-diplomatic civilian personnel (could be interpreted to mean “intelligence” personnel).
- Taliban commitment:
- The Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
- However, the pact is silent on other terrorist groups such as anti-India groups Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed.
- Sanctions removal:
- UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed. The sanctions will be out before much progress is expected in the intra-Afghan dialogue.
- Prisoner release: It was considered as a “possible trouble spot” because the US-Taliban agreement and the joint declaration differ on this.
- Joint Declaration:
- The US to facilitate discussion with Taliban representatives on confidence building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides.
- No numbers or deadlines has been mentioned in the joint declaration.
- Agreement: It says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released”.
- Ceasefire: It has been Identified as another potential “trouble spot” as the agreement states ceasefire will be simply “an item on the agenda” when intra-Afghan talks start, and indicates actual ceasefire will come with the “completion” of an Afghan political agreement.