After more than 18 years of war in Afghanistan, the United States and the Taliban have agreed on the most intense efforts to date by both sides to end the war. The agreement focuses on the significant withdrawal of U.S. troops and the Taliban`s assurances that the country will not become a safe haven for terrorists. The Taliban`s intransigence has contributed to the rise in violence. According to the U.S. Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Taliban stepped up their attacks on Afghan forces following the February 2020 agreement. UN data showed similar trends. Taliban attacks in April 2020 increased by 25 percent from April 2019, with violence in 20 of the country`s 34 provinces. The Trump administration`s chief envoy for Afghanistan said Thursday that the United States and the Taliban “agreed on a reorientation of the measures in strict compliance with the terms of an agreement reached between the two sides earlier this year.” The agreement aimed to reduce the level of violence in the nearly two-decade-old war and to lift ties with other militant groups to allow the remaining 4,500 U.S.
forces to return home. Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban said they had completed the upcoming talks, opening the door to a new phase of negotiations on the road to long-term peace. The Taliban are themselves a divided house whose political leaders sign the agreement, but the commanders on the ground may not be on board. These commanders are younger and combat-tested and have fought in difficult and isolated parts of the country. They are at the heart of the Taliban and many have their own agendas that could be at odds with the peace agreement. Despite the peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban, insurgent attacks on Afghan security forces have reportedly intensified in the country. In the 45 days following the agreement (between March 1 and April 15, 2020), the Taliban carried out more than 4,500 attacks in Afghanistan, an increase of more than 70% over the same period last year.  More than 900 Afghan security forces were killed during this period, compared to about 520 in the same period the previous year. Meanwhile, as a result of the agreement, the number of offensives and airstrikes by Afghan and U.S. forces against the Taliban has decreased significantly, from about 1,660 in the same period last year. Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said that while the Taliban had stopped carrying out attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, the violence was still “unacceptable” and “not conducive to a diplomatic solution.” He added: “We have continued to carry out defensive attacks to defend our partners in the region, and we will continue to do so.”  Between April 29 and May 3, 2019, the Afghan government organized a four-day loya-jirga to discuss peace talks. The Taliban were invited, but they were not present. Later in May, a third meeting was held in Moscow between a Taliban delegation and a group of Afghan politicians.  In August 2019, an eighth round of talks between the United States and the Taliban took place in Qatar.  The Washington Post reported that the United States was on the verge of a peace agreement with the Taliban and was preparing to withdraw 5,000 troops from Afghanistan.  In September, Khalilzad said that the United States and the Taliban had reached an agreement until Trump`s approval. However, less than a week later, Trump canceled peace talks in response to an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 others.  After the failure of talks with the United States, the Taliban sent a delegation to Russia to discuss the prospects of withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.  On September 18, 2019, the Taliban declared that if Trump decided to resume peace talks in the future, their “open doors” would be open.  The agreement comes after the two sides found themselves on the brink last month.