Will Biden scrap Trump's US-Taliban peace deal in Afghanistan?
The Democratic presidential candidate's win in recent US elections was met with elation by the Afghan government, who hope to revive a strategic partnership under the new US leadership.
Intra-Afghan talks, which commenced on 12 September in Qatar, have yet to make progress amid rising violence, with neither the Taliban nor the Afghan government agreeing to a ceasefire.
The Doha agreement signed in February this year called for the withdrawal of all US forces in Afghanistan by May 2021 in return for securing guarantees from the Taliban that the country would not become a launchpad for terrorist attacks.
The deal, however, does not bind the Taliban to reaching a political settlement with the Afghan government.
While the withdrawal of foreign troops is a key issue in the Doha accord - designed to end the two decade-old conflict in Afghanistan - some US allies have expressed reservations about the impact of any speedy withdrawal by the Trump administration.
|Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has urged Joe Biden to review the Trump administration's peace accord and stall the withdrawal of US troops
While congratulating Biden on his electoral victory, Ashraf Ghani said he hoped to continue and deepen Afghanistan's multi-layered strategic partnership with the US on counterterrorism. Afghan lawmakers also urged the new US leader to reset a "new mechanism" that annuls part of the deal which bars the US from "hitting the Taliban".
Hamidullah Tokhi, a lawmaker from the southern Zabul province, said, "We hope that Biden does not follow in the footsteps of Trump who has discredited the US and committed a betrayal both to the US and Afghanistan through the deal with the Taliban."
|Read more: Winners and losers: The future of Afghanistan's
fragile peace process
The Taliban, meanwhile, have demanded that Biden sticks to the Doha peace deal, which paves the way for a withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country. The militant group hopes that the Afghan peace process will be strengthened, not weakened, under Biden administration.
The Taliban has frequently called the Afghan government a US puppet, but Kabul has been virtually sidelined by President Donald Trump in the almost two-year long peace talks with the militant group. The government had no role in finalising the terms of the Doha peace agreement and was pressured by the US to implement the accord.
As a result, it has played the role of 'spoiler' in the war's end game, attempting to create political deadlock in order to sabotage the peace process from the very beginning. For example, its reluctance to release 5,000 Taliban militants delayed the implementation of the prisoner exchange provision in the deal. This angered the Taliban, who demanded that Washington enforce the agreement in letter and spirit.
Kabul eventually conceded under pressure from the Trump administration, but urged the Taliban to end its violence and discontinue attacks on Afghan forces. On 15 May, the Trump administration declared it would reduce its troop numbers to 8,600 by 15 July and abandon five bases, a clear message to those attempting to sabotage the deal by both violence and political deadlock.
|As the Democratic presidential nominee, Biden's stance on Afghanistan has been to maintain a small troop presence to counter the threat of terrorism|
As the Democratic presidential nominee, Biden's stance on Afghanistan has been to maintain a small troop presence to counter the threat of terrorism and strengthen US allies. Though not supporting a heavy troop presence, Biden would likely want a residual number for counterterrorism operations with US allies.
The Afghan government has been America's frontline ally against the Taliban, but the Doha accord stipulates that US forces must not join counterterrorism operations with the Afghan government against Taliban militants. It is highly likely that Biden would scrap such clauses.
|Read more: What a Biden presidency could mean for
the Middle East
In response, the Taliban, who control an estimated 70 percent of Afghan territory, could step up attacks against US and Afghan forces. These developments could ultimately mean that the Doha accord, which is essentially an exit deal for the US, would be scrapped.
In a post-US Afghanistan Ghani's government fears a bleak future and wants to convince Biden to slow down the peace process and get tougher with the Taliban. But it would take the US years, and a huge amount of resources and collateral damage, to attain a position of strength in the country.
Biden is well aware of Afghan affairs due to his decades-long involvement in Afghanistan as a former chairman of the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee and two terms as vice president. Analysts say it is unlikely he would dramatically change course in the US-led Afghan peace process, and there may well be no substantial changes at all.
Reports suggest that current US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad might be asked by Biden to continue his role in Afghanistan. While any US troop withdrawal might be delayed as long as intra-Afghan talks remain stalled, Biden is unlikely to treat the Doha agreement as Trump did the Iran nuclear deal and unilaterally withdraw.
Syed Fazl-e-Haider is a contributing analyst at South Asia desk of Wikistrat. He is a freelance columnist and the author of several books including the 'Economic Development of Balochistan'