18 months later, President Joe Biden points to the Doha, Qatar agreement as he attempts to shift blame for Afghanistan's overthrow in a blitz. It required him to withdraw U.S. forces, setting the stage of the chaos that is sweeping the country.
Biden cannot claim that the agreement has bound him in, but he can only go so far. It contained an escape clause. The U.S. could withdraw from the agreement if Afghan peace negotiations failed. They did. But Biden chose to remain in the accord, even though he delayed his complete withdrawal from May to September.
Chris Miller, the acting defense secretary during the Trump administration's final months, was furious at the notion that Biden had been handcuffed under the agreement.
He could have renegotiated the deal if he felt it was not right. He had ample opportunity to do so if he desired," Miller, a Pentagon counterterrorism officer at the time of the Doha agreement, stated in an interview.
It would have been hard to negotiate, however. Biden would not have been able to leverage much. Like Trump, he wanted U.S. soldiers out of Afghanistan. He might have had to withdraw from the agreement in order to send thousands of troops back.
Monday's address was televised from the White House. He stated that he wouldn't commit to sending more American troops in Afghanistan to fight for its future. However, he also referenced the Trump deal to suggest the Trump predecessor had predetermined the withdrawal path.
Biden stated, "The decision I had to make as your president was to either follow through on that agreement, or be ready to go back and fight the Taliban in spring fighting season."
Even Trump-era officials have questions about whether the terms of the deal and subsequent decisions did enough to protect Afghanistan after the U.S. military left.
This historic deal required high-wire diplomacy and a certain amount of trust in Taliban as potential peace partners. It was also inked despite the doubts expressed by war-weary Afghans, who feared losing their authority in any power-sharing agreements.
"The Doha Agreement was very weak, and the U.S. should've gained more concessions form the Taliban," stated Lisa Curtis (an Afghanistan expert who served as the National Security Council senior director for South- and Central Asia).
It was "wishful thinking" for the Taliban to be interested in a lasting peace, she said. She claimed that the agreement was heavily weighted towards the Taliban and contributed to the fall of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Afghanistan Sunday for the United Arab Emirates. It also facilitated the release from Taliban prisoner 5,000 without any compensation from the Taliban.
The agreement required the U.S. force to be reduced to 8,600 troops from 13,000 in the next three to four month. The remaining U.S forces would then have to withdraw within 14 months or by May 1.
In an interview with ABC, Biden stated that he was faced with the deadline shortly after assuming office. "Do you think we wouldn't have to put a hell of a lot more troops?" Do you think we wouldn't have to put a heck of a lot more soldiers?" Biden stated that he would have tried to find a way to withdraw the troops even without Trump's agreement and that it was not a good time to leave Afghanistan.
The agreement stipulated that the Taliban would have to fulfill certain commitments to prevent terrorist attacks, such as the obligation to renounce al Qaida and to stop any group or individuals from using Afghan soil for plotting attacks against the U.S. and its allies. Although the agreement required the Taliban to halt all attacks on U.S. forces and coalition forces, the agreement did not require them to expel al Qaida or stop attacks against the Afghan military.
The agreement gave the Taliban significant legitimacy. Their leaders met with Pompeo who was the first secretary-of-state to do so. They were also discussed about coming to the U.S. for a meeting with Trump.
Stlll, Trump was cautious about the deal's chances of success and warned of military firepower if anything goes wrong. Pompeo also stated that the U.S. is "realistic" as well as "restrained" and determined to avoid endless conflicts.
Officials from the United States made it clear that the agreement was condition-based, and that failure to reach an intra-Afghan peace deal would have negated the need to withdraw.
A top aide to U.S. chief negotiator Zalmay Khanzad stated that the Doha agreement could be renegotiated and that the United States is not obligated to pull out troops from Afghanistan if they cannot reach an agreement with the Afghan parties or if the Taliban act in bad faith.
These negotiations were supposed to start within one month of the agreement being signed, but were delayed by disputes between the Taliban government and the Afghan government about prisoner release. Despite many attempts, negotiations failed to produce any results by April when Biden announced his withdrawal decision. They have not done so since.
Miller stated that it was the right approach and needed to force Ghani to negotiate. Miller said that the Doha agreement was supposed to be the first phase of the process. The next step would be the U.S. using their leverage to get Ghani to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban.
Miller stated that Miller was right to say that although he wasn't thrilled by the idea, he was determined to make it happen -- or he would be expelled. We were going to exert serious pressure on him to agree to a deal with Taliban.
Curtis said that the U.S. should have stayed out of Doha negotiations "unless we were willing to represent the Afghan government’s interests." It was unfair because no one was protecting the Afghan government's interests.