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U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (L) and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (R) sign a peace agreement between U.S., Taliban, in Doha, Qatar on Feb. 29. Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The U.S. has signed a deal with the Taliban aimed at ending its war in Afghanistan after 18 years, starting with the withdrawal of around 4,000 troops "within months."

Why it matters: America has wanted out of Afghanistan for at least a decade. The deal signed in Doha should finally accomplish that — but peace for Afghanistan remains far from secure.

What to watch: As the U.S. begins to pull troops out, the Taliban has agreed to prevent terror groups from filling the void and to enter negotiations with the Afghan government.

  • The first hurdle for those sides to clear is a prisoner swap, involving some 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan troops.
  • They must also agree on Afghanistan's political future. 
  • It's unclear whether the current "reduction in violence" will hold throughout those negotiations.
  • It's also uncertain what will happen to the protections the U.S. has helped guarantee for minorities and women, including access to education, after American troops are gone.

What they're saying:

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was on hand in Doha, said "the future of Afghanistan is for Afghans to determine," adding that the agreement "creates the conditions" for peace but would be worthless absent "concrete action on commitments stated."
  • Sher Mohammad Abas Stanekzai, the Taliban's deputy negotiator, called today a "day of victory." The group's multimedia chief celebrated "the defeat of the arrogance of the White House in the face of the white turban," per the NYT.
  • President Trump said he expected U.S. troops to start leaving Afghanistan on Saturday. "I'll be meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not too distant future, and we'll be very much hoping that they will be doing what they say they're going to be doing," Trump said in a White House briefing on Saturday. "They will be killing terrorists, they will be killing some very bad people. ... We've had tremendous success in Afghanistan in the killing of terrorists ... but now it's time for somebody else to do that work, and that will be the Taliban, or it could be surrounding countries."
  • The other side: "Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America's civilian population," former national security adviser John Bolton tweeted Saturday. "This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists, and to America's enemies generally."


How it happened: Negotiations began in September 2018, led by veteran U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad.

  • The Afghan government bristled at their exclusion, but the Taliban would negotiate first only with the U.S.
  • A deal was almost reached last fall, complete with a ceremony at Camp David, but collapsed after the Taliban killed a U.S. soldier.
  • The current deal sets a timeline for U.S. withdrawal, first to 8,600 troops and then to zero within 14 months. That timeline might not hold up depending on events on the ground.

The big picture: Since the American invasion in the wake of 9/11, 3,500 U.S. and allied troops have been killed, tens of thousands of Afghans have lost their lives, and the U.S. has spent $2 trillion.

  • Polls suggest most Americans tend to consider the war a failure.

Go deeper

First look: Senators propose bill to ban corporate PACs

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Mark Kelly. Photos: Chip Somodevilla (left), Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will soon propose a bill prohibiting for-profit corporations from establishing and managing political action committees, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The introduction of "The Ban Corporate PACs Act" comes amid heightened scrutiny on Capitol Hill regarding money in politics, including efforts to bar companies from influencing political campaigns and federal elections. It would likely face a court challenge and First Amendment concerns.

2 hours ago - Technology

Exclusive: YouTube shuts down two Oath Keepers channels

Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers. (Photo: Aaron C. Davis/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

YouTube has deactivated two channels linked to the Oath Keepers militia group whose members have been charged in relation to the January 6 Capitol riot, the company told Axios.

The big picture: Social media platforms that were used to plan or promote the Capitol attack have moved with varying degrees of speed to bar the accounts involved.

FAA clears more planes after 5G fears

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it had approved nearly 80% of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports with new 5G services after fears of signal interference limited 5G rollout.

Why it matters: The FAA approvals will help provide more certainty after the agency raised fears that 5G signals could reduce the accuracy of certain equipment, known as radio altimeters, that helps planes land and take off in inclement weather.

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