In Afghanistan, there has been a marked upsurge in violence since the start of the year. The Taliban have been accused of intensifying their terrorist campaign in their bid to retake control of the country. Pictured: Afghan soldiers fire on Taliban positions in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan on February 9, 2021. (Photo by Noorullah Shirzada/AFP via Getty Images)
With former US President Donald J. Trump no longer able to dictate US policy on Afghanistan, the Taliban are exploiting the opportunity to increase their efforts to seize control of the country in spite of the peace accord they signed with the Trump administration last year.
Under the terms of that agreement with the US, the Taliban agreed to negotiate a peaceful resolution of this benighted country's long-running civil war in return for Washington agreeing to withdraw all its remaining forces. In addition, they agreed to cut their ties with Islamist terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda.
Yet, to judge by recent events in Afghanistan, the Taliban are showing little inclination to abide by the terms of the deal.
While Mr Trump kept his side of the bargain, reducing US forces from around 13,000 at the time the deal was signed last February to just 2,500 when he left office, there has been little evidence of the Taliban fulfilling their commitments under the terms of the agreement.
On the contrary, since the start of the year there has been a marked upsurge in violence as the Taliban, rather than seeking to achieve a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict, have been accused of intensifying their terrorist campaign in their bid to retake control of the country. In addition, the Taliban leadership is maintaining its ties with terror groups such as Al-Qaeda.
Consequently, Afghanistan finds itself in the midst of a major security crisis, with militants concentrating their attacks on a broad cross-section of Afghan society, with judges, activists, journalists, moderate clerics, students and other professionals all being targeted.
One of the more depressing features of this upsurge in violence is that it has resulted in young educated Afghans, who have enjoyed a more liberal lifestyle in recent years and once heralded a bright future for their country, opting to abandon their country in order to escape the worsening violence.
Afghan officials believe the Taliban never had any intention of fulfilling their side of the deal, and just drew out the negotiations with the Trump administration so that they could secure the release of the estimated 5,000 militants being held by Afghan security forces, who were eventually released by the Afghan authorities last autumn.
Interviewed by The Times of London earlier this week, Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan's National Security Advisor, accused the Taliban of simply exploiting the deal to secure the release of Taliban fighters from Afghan prisons:
"The only thing the Taliban have taken out of this agreement is to get their prisoners, then launch an offensive against the Afghan forces and government. That was, it seems, their plan from the beginning."
The rapidly deteriorating security situation has now prompted NATO leaders to order a review of whether all the remaining US-led coalition troops based in Afghanistan should be withdrawn by May 1 this year, as was originally envisaged in Mr Trump's deal.
A two-day virtual conference convened this week of NATO defence ministers -- the first time that officials from the new Biden administration have participated in a NATO summit -- discussed in detail whether the withdrawal should continue, but decided to postpone a decision while US President Joe Biden undertakes a thorough review of Mr Trump's deal.
Even though the Biden administration has yet to decide whether to support Mr Trump's deal, there is growing resistance within the NATO alliance to withdrawing forces while the Taliban are still maintaining their campaign of violence against the Afghan people.
Speaking at the end of the NATO meeting, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance remained committed to the agreement, but wanted the Taliban to demonstrate that it was serious about pursuing peace.
"The peace process is the best chance to end years of suffering and violence, and bring lasting peace," he said. "It is important for the Afghan people, for the security of the region and for our own security.
Of major concern is the prospect that, if the Taliban are allowed to seize control of the country they governed prior to the September 11 attacks, they will once again allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which will then use the country as a base to launch devastating attacks against the West.
Thus, in making his decision about the future of American forces in Afghanistan, Mr Biden needs to take care that he is not responsible for causing a new wave of terror attacks against the US and its allies.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.