JURIST Guest Columnist Israr Khan discusses the potential ramifications for the Government of Afghanistan of the US-Taliban Peace Agreement. . .
On February 29th, the United States officials and Taliban representatives signed an agreement aiming to bring an end to the 19 years of conflict in Afghanistan. The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan weeks after the September 2001 attack in New York by al-Qaeda. The Taliban were ousted from power but they became United States worst nightmare, hindering United States efforts in Afghanistan. The current political solution has the potential to pave the way for peace in Afghanistan. However, peace in Afghanistan depends on the type of political agreement between the Taliban and the United States. Unfortunately, the current agreement may not deliver a fully peaceful Afghanistan. As will be seen, the current agreement only seeks a peaceful transition for the United States not the Afghans.
The agreement is called “Agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America”. The framework for interpreting such an international agreement is provided in articles 31 and 32 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which allows for a good-faith interpretation in accordance with the ordinary meaning of the treaty in the light of its object and purpose.
The agreement is divided into four parts. Before delving deep into the details of the agreement, one particular aspect of the entire agreements needs urgent attention. The phrase ‘the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban’ is repeated through the agreement. The ordinary meaning of the phrase, if read with the rest of the agreement, suggests that the United States considers the Taliban as the de jure rulers of Afghanistan. A literal interpretation of the stated phrase would mean that from the United States point of view the current government of Afghanistan is no longer legitimate. This interpretation is supported by the rest of the agreement which acknowledges the Taliban’s ability to grant visa’s and passports(see part 2(5) of the Agreement). The Taliban’s recognition as legitimate rulers under the agreements results into multiple complications. Since 2001 the agreements reached between Afghan governments and the United States may not be binding on the Taliban unless they succeed to them. Furthermore, the recognition of the Taliban as legitimate rulers raises the alarm of internal gridlock between the current Afghan Government and the Taliban. Afghanistan’s current President has already made a statement that it will not release the 5,000 Taliban prisoners that the United States agreed with the Taliban.
According to part one of the agreement, the United States is ‘committed to withdrawing from Afghanistan all military forces of the United States, and Coalition partners’. In the coming 135 days, the United States and its allies will reduce the number of U.S forces in Afghanistan to 8,600. It will withdraw the remaining forces within the remaining 9.5 months (see part 1 (A) & (B) of the Agreement). Furthermore, the United States will work to release combat and political prisoners ‘as a confidence-building measure’. The agreement notes the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 prisoners of the other sides (see part 1 (c) of the Agreement). Under the agreement, the United States also commits to review the current US sanctions and aims to remove them by 27 August 2020 (see part one (D) of the Agreement); the United States will aim to remove the UN sanctions by 29 May 2020 (See part 1 (E) of the Agreement). Furthermore, the United States and its allies pledged to refrain from ‘the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Afghanistan or intervening in its domestic affairs’(part 1(F) of the Agreement).
In return for the above-mentioned efforts, the agreements in part two put obligations on the Taliban. Part two of the agreement obliges the Taliban to take steps to prevent ‘any group or individual, including al-Qaida from, using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its Allies. It further obliges Taliban to not issue ‘visas, passports, travel permits, or other legal documents’ to those who pose threat to the security of the United States and its allies to enter Afghanistan (see part 2(5) of the Agreement).
The agreement only protects the United States and its allies interest and in return, it accepts the Taliban as the legitimate State of Afghanistan; thus undermines the legitimacy of the current Afghan Government. It also undermines the 19 years democratization efforts of Afghanistan. The agreement does not put any obligations on the Taliban to make a peaceful settlement with the current Afghan Government. It also fails to bind the Taliban to uphold the rule of law and respect fundamental human right recognized by the UN. What does the future holds for education, women and civil liberties in Afghanistan are not observed in the agreement?
By giving the Taliban free hand, the United States has failed to respect the sacrifice of thousands of Afghans and its forces who stood against the brutalities of the Taliban. With the USA and its allies leaving Afghanistan, Afghans will be left at the mercy of the Taliban. Analysis of Whether there will be further escalations between the Taliban and the current Afghan government is outside the scope of this article. But two things are clear from the current agreement. Firstly, the agreement does not seek peace between the Afghans and the Taliban. Secondly, the US and its allies will not be able to interfere or rescue any side.
Israr Khan a Legal Adviser at the Citizens Advice Bureau. He is also studying Law at the University of Aberdeen, UK.
Suggested citation: Israr Khan, Interpreting the Afghanistan Peace Agreement: Peace or no Peace?, JURIST – Student Commentary, March 9, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/03/israr-khan-Afghanistan-Peace/
This article was prepared for publication by Tim Zubizarreta, a JURIST Staff Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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