As Kabul fell to the Afghan Taliban on Sunday, the United States has had two strands of emotion directed towards it; one, which comes with the humiliation of a defeat in war, and the second, which questions one’s failure.
With regards to the latter, politicians and analysts alike have questioned US’s inability to deal with the Afghan issue, and have been critical, in retrospect, of the US’s peace overtures to the Taliban since 2018.
Renowned commentator and journalist associated with CNN, Fareed Zakariya, made a no holds barred commentary on United States’s reckless dealing with the Taliban since 2018. He opined that the US had cut a deal with the Taliban whilst being aware of the fact that the Taliban had been gaining ground for years.
Zakariya stated that as a result of the deal made with the Taliban, the group was not attacking US and coalition troops in the country, however, fighting actually intensified in 2019. He added, in that year, the Afghan Army and Police suffered their most casualties in the two decades of fighting, while it was the worst period of Afghan civilian casualties in a decade.
The analyst was hinting at the fact that the United States signed the Doha Agreement with the Taliban, despite having full knowledge of the fact that the situation was deteriorating in Afghanistan.
However, this was not the only deal that the United States made with the insurgent group it fought with for over two decades. An academic associated with The Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA), Obaid Otmankhail, has claimed that the final decision regarding the Afghan issue was made three years back, as opposed to the Doha agreement of 2020. In a series of tweets, he detailed how the US had agreed to bring Taliban back to power in 2018 and that the Doha Agreement was just one of the methods to enable this takeover. In return, the academic claimed, the terror group would pose no threat to US and its allies and the latter would be free to pursue its global priorities, in which Afghanistan had no place.
Though no substantial evidence was put forth for this ‘deal’, one could use circumstantial evidence to back such a claim. In a report by The New York Times, titled ‘U.S. Diplomats Held Face-to-Face Talks With Taliban, Insurgents Say’, US officials had secretly met the Taliban in July 2018 in the group’s political office at Doha, Qatar.
Moreover, it is not a far-fetched possibility that the US would strike such a deal. Its behaviour, both recently and for the past many years, shows that it does not shy away from throwing others under the bus to supplement its geopolitical pursuits. Two days before the fall of Kabul, in a New York Times report titled ‘U.S. Asks Taliban to Spare Its Embassy in Coming Fight for Kabul’, it was said that the United States had asked the Taliban to spare its embassy in Kabul in return for future aid.
If this was shocking, the claims of US-Taliban deals, or ‘understandings’, have been around for over a decade. In 2010, a report in Le Monde Diplomatique titled ‘The Taliban’s Secret Weapon: Security’, revealed that US money was falling in the hands of Taliban in return for protection of infrastructure and transport projects. Whether this was an actual deal between the United States and the Taliban, or an implicit understanding, is unclear. But surely, the US would have had knowledge of this, and its inaction on this may be seen as a tacit acceptance of this arrangement.
For avid observers of US foreign policy, the rapid fall of Kabul will definitely raise suspicions about an underhand deal that threw the Afghans to the wolves. The behaviour of the United States certainly points towards the collapse of the Afghan state to the Taliban offensive as a deliberate ploy to augment its foreign policy, or it may simply be a foreign policy failure. As for most national security and geopolitical matters, the question of US intention (or lack thereof) vis-à-vis the fall of Kabul will certainly remain behind a veil for some time.