The United States and the Taliban have signed a "comprehensive peace agreement" that could bring an end to the war in Afghanistan. As The Associated Press reports, the agreement was signed on Saturday with the aim of ending conflict and bringing home U.S. troops. If Taliban militants uphold the deal, U.S. and NATO allies will withdraw all troops from the country within 14 months, ending a war that lasted over 18 years.
Following the signing ceremony in Doha, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Trump administration is "realistic" about the deal, and is "seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation." President George W. Bush initially ordered the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It is estimated that the United States spent over $750 billion during the Afghan conflict.
Pompeo said that the U.S. won't "squander" what its soldiers "have won through blood, sweat, and tears." The Taliban have promised not to let extremists use Afghanistan as a platform to attack the U.S. or its allies as part of the agreement. Over the next 135 days, troop numbers in the region will be cut down from 13,000 to 8,600. Some have voiced concerns over the Taliban's motive for signing the deal, however.
"Like many Afghans, I have mixed feelings. The general secrecy around the deal, the lack of presence of non-Taliban Afghans in the process, the fact that the US-Taliban talks seemed to marginalize other Afghan voices, all have made me anxious," said Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission chair Shaharzad Akbar, the Guardian reports. "However, on the other hand, if the agreement allows for a reasonable timeline for a responsible withdrawal and ensures intra-Afghan talks, there is room for hope about a substantive reduction in conflict and violence. Peace will require much more."
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg added that "the road to peace will be long and hard and there will be setbacks."