Peace Process Update: Nov 27
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
President Trump Orders Further Troop Drawdown From Afghanistan; International Donors Make Financial Commitments Through 2024
On Tuesday, November 17th, the Pentagon confirmed that the Trump administration will sharply decrease US troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by January 15, 2021, just five days before President-elect Biden will be sworn in. The President faced strong opposition from high-ranking Republicans and Democrats who fear the hasty withdrawal will undermine ongoing peace talks with the Taliban insurgents and the Afghan government’s very survival. The top Senate Republican, majority leader Mitch McConnell, expressed his concerns in a press conference, calling the plan a “mistake” that delights America’s adversaries. The President’s decision also drew rebukes from allies abroad with NATO Secretary-General Jen Stoltenberg saying the price for leaving Afghanistan too fast or in a disorganized way could be “very high”; the German Foreign Minister shared similar concerns. The drawdown announcement came days after the President abruptly fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and replaced the Secretary and other senior officials at the DOD with loyalists.
On Thursday, November 19th, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan traveled to Afghanistan to discuss ongoing peace talks and strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two nations. President Ghani called the visit “historical,” and Prime Minister Khan vowed that he would do “anything possible” to help decrease violence in the war-stricken country. Both the U.S. and Afghan government view Pakistan as a crucial player in the intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha, having the ability to influence the Taliban insurgents.
As a sign of growing violence and insecurity, mortar shells claimed by the Islamic State militants hit Kabul, killing eight people and wounding thirty-one others, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined the intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha. Secretary Pompeo met with both negotiating teams and told the Afghan government that the U.S. would “sit on the side and help where we can,” in what was likely his last direct participation in the negotiations. Following Secretary Pompeo’s visit, sources reported that some progress had been made to break the stalemate over procedural rules for the negotiations, but a spokesperson for the Afghan government denied the claim the following day.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, at a conference on Tuesday, November 24th, the US, European Union, and other international donors pledged nearly $12 billion of development and security assistance funding over the next four years for Afghanistan. More than 100 countries and international groups committed nearly $3 billion in total development aid to the country for 2021 in a mostly virtual meeting co-hosted by Finland and the UN. Many donors set strict conditions for their future commitments, including progress on peace talks, tackling corruption, fostering democracy, the rule of law, and gender equality. Afghan Foreign Minister, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, welcomed the aid, calling it an ‘impressive figure’ that represents the generosity and sense of responsibility of the pledging nations.