Afghans hope for peace and a new beginning as US-Taliban set for troop withdrawal deal

If the deal gets signed then the Afghans might be able to see a new dawn after the period of trauma, anxiety and fear in the last two decades

Millions of people of Afghanistan are expecting that the longest war that America fought in their country will come to an end on Saturday with the US and Taliban negotiators signing a deal to allow the reduction of US troops and also a permanent ceasefire.

If all the proceedings go as per expected then Afghanistan, which has been under the fire of war since American bombings began in the response of the September 11 attacks, will finally experience the probable end of the violence that had haunted the Afghans for the last two decades.

Afghans to breathe a sigh of relief

Afghans in Kabul
Afghans in Kabul Wikimedia Commons

A 31-member Taliban delegation arrived in Qatar on Saturday to oversee the signing of the troop withdrawal deal, said officials of the hardline Islamist group, adding that their political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will sign the agreement on their behalf. The signing ceremony between the warring sides is set to take place at the Sheraton hotel in Qatar's capital of Doha.

Photographs from the venue showed a large banner stating "Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan" placed in a conference room adjoining the hotel. Security has been tightened outside the hotel as hotel guests, journalists and government officials thronged the lobby. Security experts said the deal is a foreign policy gamble for US President Donald Trump and would give the Taliban international legitimacy.

Possible end to the ongoing struggles of Afghanistan

But for millions of Afghans, it opens a possibility to end the ongoing struggle of coping with fear, anxiety and violence. "Peace is extremely simple and my country deserves it. Today is the day when maybe we will see a positive change," said Javed Hassan, 38, a school teacher living on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul.

Hassan's children were killed in a bomb blast carried out by the Taliban in 2018. Since then, he has been writing letters to world leaders urging them to end the Afghan war that has dominated the landscape of the land-locked country. Saturday's deal could be the first step towards resetting Afghanistan's future as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to witness the signing of the agreement and prepare the ground for a political settlement between the warring sides.

America's top diplomat will stand with political leaders of Taliban

America's top diplomat will stand with political leaders of the Taliban, Afghanistan's former rulers who sheltered Osama bin Laden and his militant network until 2001 as he plotted and conducted the 9/11 attacks. A statement from Trump on Friday said Pompeo would be present for the signing of the deal that will pave way for US troop numbers to drop to 8,600 from about 13,000 in the weeks following the deal.

Further reductions of western forces will hinge on the Taliban adhering to a "reduction in violence" pledge, a condition that will be assessed by the United States. But prospects for war-torn Afghanistan's future are uncertain. The agreement sets the stage for peace talks involving Afghan factions, which are likely to be complicated.

Taliban wants 5,000 fighters to be released

Under the deal, the Taliban wants 5,000 fighters to be released from Afghan-run jails, but it's not clear whether the Afghan government will agree. There are also questions about whether Taliban fighters loyal to hardline Islamist splinter groups will be willing to adhere to the reduction in violence agreement.

Some senior commanders of the Taliban who arrived in Doha for the signing ceremony said they will ensure that the US and Afghan governments accept all the conditions laid down by the group that controls about 40 percent of Afghanistan, according to Afghan defence officials. Sources in the Taliban earlier this month said they were prepared to launch a spring offensive and had recruited more than 6,000 fighters and suicide bombers if the agreement collapses.

(With agency inputs)