Dispute over prisoners, deadly attacks in Afghanistan threaten US deal with Taliban

Taliban militants and villagers attend a gathering as they celebrate the peace deal and their victory in the Afghan conflict, Laghman, Afghanistan, March 2, 2020.Noorullah Shirzada/AFP via Getty Images

Two days after a historic signing ceremony between the U.S. and the Taliban, a series of attacks across Afghanistan, a possible new command from the Taliban and a disagreement over releasing Taliban prisoners threaten to derail the peace process laid out by the agreement.

The U.S. had demanded that the Taliban commit to reducing violence before signing any deal. It was a step short of the nationwide ceasefire Ghani’s government set as a precondition, but the reduction in violence held all last week, demonstrating the Taliban had “both the commitment and the capability to enforce” a potential ceasefire, according to a senior U.S. administration official.

Still, President Donald Trump said Monday that the U.S. is “getting out” of Afghanistan after over 18 years of war, seemingly regardless of what comes next.

In addition to the dispute over prisoners, the peace process seemed threatened by a series of attacks across the country on Monday. In Zabul, a southeastern province bordering Pakistan, the Taliban attacked a police post, while an attack near a soccer game in Khost, an eastern province also bordering Pakistan, killed at least three people and wounded seven, according to local officials — although the Taliban specifically denied responsibility for that one.

That commitment to keep violence low is not explicit in the agreement, and instead, the Taliban spokesperson said Monday the reduction had officially ended and they would again attack Afghan security forces, albeit not U.S. forces.

Trump, however, sounded a much more forward-leaning note Monday in the Oval Office when he said, “We had good meetings with the Taliban, and we are going to be leaving, and we’re going to be bringing our soldiers back home.”

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