On February 29 this year, US President Donald trump said the US "immediately" began withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. This became possible after the agreement had been signed between the United States and the Taliban (banned in Russia) in the capital of Qatar, Doha, the day before. The agreement reached should launch a peace process in Afghanistan and put an end to the longest war in the history of the United States, which lasted over 18 years.
US military Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) began on October 7, 2001 in response to the September 11 attacks. The reason for introducing troops to Afghanistan was UN Security Council resolution No. 1368 of 12.09.2011. Apart from that, a contingent of the International Security Assistance Force was formed under the auspices of NATO to combat terrorists, which involved representatives of up to 50 UN member states over the years.
The operation's key declared objective was the destruction of militants with the extremist Taliban movement and the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda (banned in the Russian Federation). Initially, combat operations developed quite successfully for the United States and its allies. As early as on November 13, the Taliban left Kabul, and on December 7, they lost the Kandahar stronghold. According to Americans reports, two-thirds of the militants were eliminated, including a number of terrorist leaders. But no sweeping victory was achieved.
Further on, the situation unfolded under a scenario typical for this country – the Taliban took on guerrilla warfare. Barack Obama failed to turn the tide of the conflict, even though he sent an additional contingent of 30 thousand people to Afghanistan in 2009 and brought it to a record high over the entire campaign in 2010 (120 thousand soldiers).
As a result, by the end of 2014, faced with huge human and material losses, Washington halved the size of its group and announced the transition to a new task under the Resolute Support Mission. The goal formulated was helping the official government's security forces in their fight against terrorism, which was virtually an attempt to avoid direct clashes with the Taliban, while maintaining a presence in Afghanistan. In the following years, until the Doha agreement was signed, the Americans continued to suffer losses, and the Taliban took control of more than half of the country's territory.
What did the United States get as a result of this war? The outcome looks depressing: with some 800 thousand American soldiers having gone through Afghanistan, prospects for a repeated Vietnam Syndrome looks quite real: 2,400 people were killed and over 20 thousand soldiers were injured. Direct and indirect expenses have approached two trillion dollars. All of this caused discontent and frustration with the American society, which Donald Trump was careful to use in his election campaign, promising to finally end the war in Afghanistan.
Talks with the Taliban began in the second year of Trump's presidency. The negotiation process was difficult and it even came to its complete rupture on the initiative of the United States in 2019. And finally, the agreement was signed to fittingly coincide with the beginning of a new election cycle in that country.
Pursuant to the agreement, the United States first undertakes to reduce its contingent from 13 to 8.6 thousand people within 135 days (the allies will make reductions proportionally). Second, if the Taliban complies with the agreements reached, they will completely withdraw their own and allied forces within 14 months. Third, by August 2020, America will remove restrictions from Taliban members, as well as facilitate the organization's exclusion from the UN sanctions list by May this year. Fourth, 5,000 prisoners should be released in cooperation with the government of Afghanistan.
The Taliban, in its turn, undertakes to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan is not used by any terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, to undermine the security of the United States and its allies. Besides, it will start negotiations with the Afghan government and release one thousand prisoners.
Trump's opponents called the agreement a "shameful capitulation". Indeed, amid Washington's specific commitments, requirements imposed on the Taliban look vague and declarative. The most challenging issue is to start negotiations with official Kabul, since some of the Taliban express strong dissent over any contacts with the country's government. As for the content and timing of negotiations, the ill-disguised thing is that those may start and go into infinity.
However, the United States has already taken the first moves to legitimize the Taliban by sending a request to the UN Security Council to exclude this organization from the list of terrorist groups. In parallel, President Trump had a "very good" phone conversation with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Moscow's reaction to the "historic" agreement was restrained. As Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recalled, Russia had repeatedly stated there was no alternative to political and diplomatic methods for resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, which eventually happened. In turn, Russia's Special Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, commenting on the US initiative to revoke the terrorist status of the Taliban, said that once the UN Security Council makes a decision to this effect, Russia may follow suit.
Anyway, the prospect of implementing the agreement looks doubtful. Bearing in mind the US "withdrawals" from Iraq and Syria, it may be safely suggested that American PMCs, contingents of advisers, instructors and representatives of special services will stay in the territory of Afghanistan in any case. Located in the underbelly of Central Asia, bordered by China, Iran, India, and Pakistan, controlled by extremist groups and producing 90% of the world's opium, Afghanistan is too important for the United States in the great geopolitical game to leave it so infamously.