Afghan endgame: Biden may seek more concessions from Taliban

Such a move may put added pressure on Pakistan as broker of the peace deal


Kamran Yousaf November 23, 2020
US president-elect Joe Biden. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

US president-elect Joe Biden is likely to seek more concessions from the Afghan Taliban in a move that may put added pressure on Pakistan, which has played a central role in brokering the peace deal between the Trump administration and the insurgents.

The Biden foreign policy team had been in contact with concerned authorities in Pakistan in the run-up to the US presidential elections, officials familiar with the development told The Express Tribune.

The Biden team was given a briefing by Pakistani authorities about the peace process and the way forward. The sense these officials got from the interactions is that the Biden administration, unlike Trump, may review the February 29 US-Taliban deal by seeking more concessions from the Taliban.

"The Trump administration might have got concessions it wanted but Biden would want to seek more concessions," said a senior Pakistani official involved in the process.

“Biden would seek orderly troop withdrawal. If the process is successful, he will take the credit and if it is not he will blame the Trump administration," the office added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Biden is likely to push for seeking a ceasefire as well as guarantees from the Taliban on human rights, something the Democrats have always pushed for. Observers believe that Biden's push for more concessions is likely to put added pressure on Pakistan.

The reason for this is that Pakistan has been instrumental in first brokering the talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US leading to the intra-Afghan talks.

The Afghan government and the US have sought comprehensive ceasefire or at least reduction in violence. However the Taliban have refused to accept the demand, insisting that the ceasefire would be part of the overall agreement to be reached through intra-Afghan talks.

The intra-Afghan dialogue has yet to make any serious head way as the two sides have yet to agree on the rules of engagement and the agenda of the talks.

On the other hand, the Trump administration has announced that 2,000 more US troops would leave Afghanistan by January 15 just days before the inauguration of Biden. This would leave only 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan, something that may further embolden the Taliban.

But experts feel that the US still has the firepower to deter the Taliban in case the ongoing peace process collapses. The worry for Pakistan and other US allies as well as foes is that hasty troop withdrawal may throw the country into yet another phase of civil war.

The incoming US president may put the troop withdrawal on hold or seek pullout in a situation whereby Afghanistan has some semblance of stability. Pakistan has also been seeking the orderly withdrawal of the US troops to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated.

"There will be clarity in the Biden administration's policy on Afghanistan when it is given a briefing by relevant US authorities on the current situation," the official said. “One thing is clear that Pakistan would remain in the spotlight when it comes to the Afghan endgame,” he added.

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