The Taliban has warned of more violence if the Doha agreement is violated by the United States as the Biden administration is reviewing the groups’ commitment to the deal.
A bipartisan study group assigned by US Congress has called on President Joe Biden’s administration to slow the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, remove the May 1 exit deadline and instead reduce the number of forces only as security conditions improve in the country.
The Taliban has said that such a move would have severe consequences and that Washington will be responsible for a future escalation.
“If the Doha agreement is abrogated, it will lead to a major war,” the Taliban said in a statement on Friday, stressing that the violation of the agreement will not be in favor of Americans as well as Afghans.
Quoting three senior Taliban members, NBC News has reported that fighters of the group have been called out of their traditional winter break from fighting to front-line duty.
“Senior commanders and governors have been directed to return to their positions and attend special sessions and discussions to chalk out a future strategy,” a Taliban commander in Helmand province said as quoted by the NBC News.
The Afghanistan Study Group began its congressionally mandated work in April 2020, just weeks after the US and the Taliban signed an agreement on February 2020 on the conditions for a US troop withdrawal that would end the US’s long military engagement in Afghanistan.
But the Taliban has said that the study group, particularly retired Gen. Joseph Dunford, former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was "failed" during his mission in Afghanistan.
The group said the Doha agreement should not be viewed from the lens of individuals that see their interests in the continuation of violence.
Senior Afghan officials, including National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, at a press conference in Kabul on Saturday said the Taliban is the main obstacle for peace and that the group is behind the ongoing violence in the country.
Mohib said the United States is reviewing the Doha agreement and that there is coordination among US officials in this respect.
"We had a high number of casualties among civilians and security force members this winter," Mohib said, adding that the Taliban has not stopped violence, even during peace efforts.
“We want peace, but if the Taliban wants war, we are also ready to defend the country,” Deputy Defense Minister Shah Mahmoud Miakhel said.
“They did not fire even a single bullet on Americans, but continued violence against Afghan forces. This is an excuse that they say like this; otherwise, they had a ceasefire with them (Americans),” said Iqbal Safi, an MP from Kapisa.
This comes as President Ashraf Ghani spoke with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this evening and discussed bilateral relations and recent developments in the peace process, the Presidential Palace said.
The US defense secretary said the Biden administration supports enduring peace, which is in favor of Afghans and results in a permanent ceasefire, according to the Palace statement.
The Palace said that President Ghani and the US defense secretary expressed their concerns over the increase in violence and targeted killings, the Palace said.
“We discussed our mutual commitment to a strong US-Afghan partnership and the importance of making urgent progress on the Afghan peace process. Looking forward to a productive partnership,” Austin said in a tweet.
Austin said he spoke with President Ghani “to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to an enduring US-Afghan partnership, emphasizing the strength of the defense relationship.”
The peace negotiations between the Afghan Republic and the Taliban negotiators have stalled over the last 20 days and violence has also remained high in the country.
The Ministry of Defense on Friday reported fighting between the government forces and the Taliban in at least 20 provinces in 24 hours.
Sources said over 20 security force members were killed in Taliban attacks in Kunduz and Faryab province on Thursday night.