RPT: ANALYSIS - Delay In US Afghan Exit May End Peace Talks, Yet Biden Unlikely To 'Hand' Taliban Victory

RPT: ANALYSIS - Delay in US Afghan Exit May End Peace Talks, Yet Biden Unlikely to 'Hand' Taliban Victory

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 06th February, 2021) A delayed withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan will likely lead to an end to intra-Afghan peace talks, but the Biden administration may find it necessary as opposed to leaving without any meaningful concessions from the Taliban, experts told Sputnik.

On Wednesday, the congressionally-mandated Afghanistan Study Group, co-chaired by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford, released a report that recommended the United States delay a withdrawal from Afghanistan if the Taliban fail to abide by the agreement it reached with Washington last February under the Trump administration.


The middle East Institute's Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies Director Marvin Weinbaum told Sputnik the Taliban will likely pull out of peace talks if the Biden administration decides to halt plans to fully withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.

"Their participation has largely been in order to ensure that foreign forces leave," Weinbaum said. "Once the US decides to keep an indefinite military presence, however small, the Taliban's incentive to remain in the talks will be gone."

The US-Taliban deal, also known as the Doha agreement, signed last February under the Trump administration requires the United States to withdraw all forces in exchange for counterterrorism assurances. However, US officials have said the Taliban have failed to split from al-Qaeda as required by the agreement.

A Taliban official last week said they will shoot any Americans who remain in Afghanistan beyond the exit date.

Weinbaum said a decision by the administration to halt plans to withdraw from Afghanistan may escalate violence in the country, but a complete withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan could lead to greater violence.

"It will probably lead to an escalation in violence but so too is there likely to be greater violence once the foreign forces have departed and in the absence of US air power the Taliban mount a major military military campaign against the Afghan security forces," Weinbaum said.

The Taliban has increased its military and political strength in Afghanistan for some time as the Kabul government and United States, in their effort to reach a political settlement, have regularly yielded in the negotiations to the Taliban, Weinbaum said.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters on Friday that the US Defense Department is currently reviewing the Doha agreement. Kirby said Washington has recommitted to a political solution, and pointed out that there is no military solution to the conflict.

Michael O'Hanlon, who specializes in US defense strategy at the Brookings Institution, told Sputnik the Biden administration must remain flexible and avoid giving the Taliban a one-sided deal in its favor.

"We have to stay flexible and seek peace, but we can't hand a victory to the Taliban," O'Hanlon said.

The experts do not foresee a large deployment of US troops in Afghanistan. Under the Trump administration, the United States reduced its troop levels in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 2,500.

"Conceivably it could go up to 4,500 but it is doubtful that any increase in troops would occur," Weinbaum said. "There's not the political support for becoming more committed."

O'Hanlon also agreed that a small increase to the US presence in Afghanistan is possible under the current conditions unless a major event occurred that would require a major military escalation.

"I think modest increases within the rough framework of today, and roles and missions of today, would be possible, yes, but nothing huge, absent another big event like another major terrorist attack in the US emanating from Afghan soil," O'Hanlon said.