Doha deal ‘did not serve Afghan people’, negotiator says

A senior foreign policy and national security expert in the US, Lisa Curtis, says the Doha Agreement signed between Washington and the Taliban in February 2020 has not served the interests of the people of Afghanistan nor of the United States.

Curtis, who was a member of Washington’s peace negotiating team, said in an interview with Amu that she believes the former US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, did not give a full account of the actual situation in Afghanistan to the president at the time, Donald Trump, and to his secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

She also spoke of Afghanistan’s former president Ashraf Ghani’s trip to the US and his meeting with incumbent President Joe Biden. She said Ghani’s position and stance was “confusing” as he also failed to convey a clear message of the ground realities at the time in the country.

Curtis was part of Washington’s negotiating team that held numerous rounds of talks with the Taliban before clinching the Doha deal that also defined the US troop withdrawal framework.

According to her, as a result of the negotiations, “far too many concessions were given to the Taliban” and “it wasn’t handled like a genuine negotiation” while “the Taliban made no compromises in the Doha deal.”

Curtis said she did not expect Khalilzad to handle negotiations with the Taliban the way he did and pointed out the Trump administration misunderstood the situation in Afghanistan.

Criticizing the deal, she said the Taliban and al-Qaeda still have close relations. According to her, al-Qaeda members have been included in the ranks of the Taliban. An example given was the current governor of Kapisa.

“I definitely did not expect the negotiations to be handled the way that they were handled [by] Ambassador Khalilzad,” she said.

“I think when the negotiation process first started, the thinking was maybe there would be a couple of meetings between the US and the Taliban but that the Afghans would quickly be brought into the room. There was never this expectation that the US would cut a separate deal with the Taliban,” she said.

Curtis, who is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has over 20 years of service in the US government, including at the National Security Council (NSC), CIA, State Department, and Capitol Hill.

The Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan, which is commonly known as the Doha Agreement, was a peace accord signed by the United States and the Taliban on 29 February 2020 in Doha, Qatar.

It effectively brought an end to the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

The deal, negotiated by Khalilzad, did not involve the then government of Afghanistan and essentially led to the collapse of Kabul, including the national security forces.

As the US withdrew its forces ahead of its September 11 deadline, the Taliban swept across the country, gaining more and more territory. By the morning of August 15, 2021, it was clear the Taliban were closing in on Kabul and the president at the time, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country. The Taliban swept into Kabul and seized control.

The US completed its full evacuation on August 30, 2021, including the evacuation of all its embassy staff.

Two years later, the Taliban has still not been recognized by a single country as the legitimate government.