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The Azadi Briefing: Taliban Celebrates 'Great Victory' On Anniversary Of U.S. Deal

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (left) and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader at the time, sign a peace agreement between Taliban and U.S. officials in Doha on February 29, 2020.
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (left) and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader at the time, sign a peace agreement between Taliban and U.S. officials in Doha on February 29, 2020.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, a senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

The Taliban on March 1 celebrated the third anniversary of the controversial U.S.-Taliban agreement, hailing it as a "great victory" and the "last nail in the coffin" of the "imperial invader."

Under the 2020 deal, Washington agreed to the unconditional withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a peace settlement with the internationally recognized Afghan government.

But the Taliban took advantage of the rapid drawdown of foreign troops by launching a major offensive against Afghan security forces. Within weeks, the militants had seized Kabul.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price on March 1 conceded that the agreement "empowered the Taliban [and] it weakened our partners in the Afghan government," which was excluded from the bilateral U.S.-Taliban deal.

In a new report, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. government watchdog, concluded that the agreement "set in motion a series of events" that led to the collapse of the U.S.-funded Afghan armed forces.

Why It's Important: Since returning to power, the Taliban has appeared to renege on its key commitments under the U.S.-Taliban deal, including denying sanctuary to extremist groups.

The Taliban has been accused of sheltering the leadership of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group, which has staged deadly attacks in neighboring Pakistan in recent years.

Meanwhile, a U.S. drone strike in July killed Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri in the heart of Kabul, where he was believed to have lived under the protection of the Taliban.

The Taliban's failure to abide by the bilateral deal with the United States has undermined its efforts to gain international recognition and secure foreign assistance.

What's Next: The Taliban's violations of the agreement as well as its human rights abuses and repression of women have once again made it an international pariah.

The international community has sanctioned and blacklisted key Taliban members and cut off the militant group from the international financial system.

But it is ordinary Afghans, reeling from a devastating humanitarian and economic crisis, who are most affected by the Taliban's growing isolation.

The Week's Best Stories

The snowy slopes of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan had become a high-altitude safe space for amateur women skiers over the past two decades. But everything has gone downhill since the return of Taliban rule and the hard-line Islamist group's ban on women participating in sports.

Samira Mohammadi's restaurant in the Afghan capital is run exclusively by and for women. It serves as a rare haven in a society where the Taliban has restricted women's basic freedoms since coming to power in 2021.

What To Keep An Eye On

The Taliban on February 28 announced that it killed two senior members of the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) extremist group in recent weeks.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Qari Fateh, who he described as IS-K's intelligence and operations chief, was killed in a raid in Kabul on February 26.

The Taliban said it killed Ijaz Amin Ahangar, who was believed to be the leader of IS-K on the Indian subcontinent, in a separate operation last month in Kabul.

Why It's Important: Since seizing power, the Taliban has waged a brutal war against IS-K, its rival.

But the extremists have continued to carry out high-profile attacks against religious minorities, Taliban officials, and foreign missions in Afghanistan.

The attacks have undermined the Taliban-led government and highlighted the enduring threat from IS-K militants.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday.

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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

To subscribe, click here.