In his first telephone call to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was reviewing the US-Taliban peace deal and the insurgents’ commitment to the agreement.
On Thursday afternoon, the State Department issued a readout of the Blinken-Ghani conversation, which reiterates the new US administration’s commitment to an enduring US-Afghanistan partnership.
The Secretary “shared that the United States is reviewing the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement and whether the Taliban are living up to their commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders,” the statement read.
“He highlighted robust diplomatic support for the peace process focused on helping the parties to the conflict achieve a durable and just political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire that benefits all Afghans,” it added.
The deal, signed by the former US administration in February 2020, aims at ending almost 20 years of war in Afghanistan and includes a formula for withdrawing all American troops from the war-ravaged country by May this year.
But the agreement also includes several conditions — such as ending Taliban attacks on US and Afghan targets — that need to be fulfilled before the withdrawal. The US-backed government in Kabul has expressed reservations about the Trump administration’s commitment to withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
According to the statement released on Thursday, Blinken reiterated his desire for all Afghan leaders to support this historic opportunity for peace while preserving the progress made over the last 20 years regarding human rights, civil liberties, and the role of women in Afghan society.
“The Secretary committed to consultations with the government of Afghanistan, Nato allies, and international partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, democratic, and secure future for Afghanistan,” the statement added.
The Biden administration has on multiple occasions stated that while it hoped to achieve peace in Afghanistan, it will review the peace deal signed with the Taliban, focusing on whether the insurgent group has reduced attacks in Afghanistan, in keeping with its side of the agreement.
The US had committed to reducing the number of its troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days of signing the deal, and working with its allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over the same period. Currently, there are 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan.
But violence across Afghanistan has surged despite the two sides engaging in those talks since September.