WASHINGTON: The deal the Trump administration signed with the Taliban — also known as the Doha agreement — legitimised the insurgent group, enabling them to capture Kabul, says Afghanistan’s former US ambassador.

In an interview with “Axios on HBO,” Ambassador Adela Raz also said that Afghans would not trust a US president anytime soon because of the way they had been treated.

Explaining why she believed the Doha agreement, which was signed in February 2020, paved the way for the Taliban takeover, she said: “When they get the political legitimacy from the international community, they almost felt okay there is no need to do more negotiation” and launched the offensive that ultimately led to Kabul’s collapse.

At a congressional hearing in Washington last week, Gen Frank McKenzie, the head of the US Central Command, also linked Kabul’s collapse in August to the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban, which promised a complete withdrawal of US troops.

He argued that once the US troop presence was pushed below 2,500 to meet the deal’s deadline, the unravelling of the US-backed Afghan government accelerated.

“The signing of the Doha agreement had a really pernicious effect on the government of Afghanistan and on its military — psychological more than anything else, but we set a date — certain for when we were going to leave and when they could expect all assistance to end,” Gen McKenzie said.

In the US-Taliban accord, the Trump administration pledged to fully withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 and the Taliban committed to stop attacking US and coalition forces.

Asked if the people of Afghanistan would trust the US again, Ambassador Raz said: “I’m sorry to say that, but I don’t think so.” She said that she also lost trust in US policies and those of the former Afghan government she served.

“I mean I’ve lost some trust in the US policies, and I think probably government policies, including my own leadership and government policies.”

When asked if she thinks America is the leader of the free world, Ambassador Raz said in terms of democracy, she would probably “question it and laugh at it” because Washington stopped helping Afghanistan become a working democracy.

“Because you were engaged in building one in Afghanistan, and the people believed in it, they fought for it, but when the negotiations arrived with the Taliban that was not a priority to be negotiated,” she said.

Asked if she got the sense that US President Joe Biden cared about the fate of Afghan women, Ms Raz, who previously served as Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the United and then Nations and then later to the US, said “I don’t think so.”

Mr Biden said that “the US could not be the police of the world to protect women in any other country,” she recalled.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2021

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