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America's eventual decoupling from the Afghan conflict remains an enduring goal. But so is lasting peace, bulwarked by the safeguarding of human rights--particularly for Afghan women--and the prevention of Afghanistan again becoming a haven for terrorism.

President Donald Trump's point man for talks with the Taliban, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, has announced an agreement in principle with the Taliban. The U.S. would withdraw 5,400 troops within 135 days. The rest of the 14,000 U.S. military personnel deployed there could come home within 16 months. In exchange for the start of troop withdrawals, the Taliban would agree to sever ties with al-Qaida.

Three crucial questions for the president:

• How will the U.S. ensure the Taliban obeys its pledge to disavow al-Qaida and preempt any revival of anti-West terrorism?

• Afghanistan has made strides in protecting women's rights. Would this peace agreement advance that tolerance or quash it?

• Glaringly absent from ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the U.S. has been the democratically elected Afghan government. Will the deal between Washington and the Taliban lead to meaningful negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul? Taliban leaders regard the Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, as Washington's puppet. They've been steadfast in ignoring Ghani and his team. Without a political settlement between Kabul and the Taliban, peace remains a faraway prospect.

The temptation for the U.S. to exit Afghanistan grows stronger with news of every bombing and ambush inflicted on civilians, Afghan security forces or U.S. and NATO troops. But a withdrawal that doesn't keep Afghanistan from becoming a rogue state, that fails to safeguard women's rights, that leads to the collapse of legitimate Afghan governance, would prove disastrous--both for Afghans and, in future years, for America.

Editorial on 09/07/2019

Print Headline: Three questions

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