The United States has reached a preliminary peace deal with the Taliban ban, facilitating the first step of withdrawing U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, the Trump administration’s envoy announced Monday.
Initiating the end of America’s longest war, U.S. diplomats reportedly negotiated an agreement to withdraw approximately 5,000 troops from five bases over a five-month span under the condition the Taliban adheres to a pledge to refrain from violence and safeguard Afghanistan from becoming a sanctuary for their decades-long ally, al-Qaeda, and other terrorists.
“We have reached an agreement with the Taliban in principle but of course until the U.S. president agrees with it, it isn’t final,” U.S. special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad told TOLO News.
Khalilzad announced the U.S. and Taliban struck a deal over the weekend, noting a draft of the deal must be approved by President Donald Trump before it can be signed.
“We are in the midst of an agreement that will reduce tyranny and open it up to Afghans to sit back and talk about a dignified and sustainable peace and a united and authoritative Afghanistan that threatens the United States, its allies and another country. No, negotiate,” Khalilzad tweeted.
He then briefed Afghan leaders in Kabul.
Khalilzad did not include Kabul from the nine meetings between the U.S. and the Taliban in Qatar, Reuters reports, while the Taliban has refused to meet with Afghan officials. However, Kabul will be included in the final political settlement.
Critics of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and military leaders, including former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, warn withdrawal will inspire al-Qaeda, Islamic State and other radical Islamic terrorist groups to resurge in the region.
Nine former U.S. ambassadors, including former ambassadors to Kabul, former deputy secretary of State and a former special envoy to Afghanistan issued a warning Tuesday that the withdrawal of troops before the Taliban and the Kabul come to a peace agreement will escalate into a “total civil war” which “could prove catastrophic for U.S. national security.”
“A major troop withdrawal must be contingent on a final peace,” the nine wrote on the website of the Atlantic Council, a think tank. “The initial U.S. drawdown should not go so far or so fast that the Taliban believe they can achieve military victory.”
“It is not clear whether peace is possible. The Taliban have made no clear statements about the conditions they would accept for a peaceful settlement with their fellow Afghans, nor do they have a track record of working with other political forces,” they said. “There is an outcome far worse than the status quo, namely a return to the total civil war that consumed Afghanistan as badly as the war with the Russians and something that could follow a breakdown in negotiations if we remove too much support from the Afghan state.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Trump ally, warned the Taliban is incapable of ridding Afghanistan of terrorists because the Taliban itself is comprised by militant fundamentalists.
“Al-Qaida is alive and well in Afghanistan. ISIS is stronger today than they’ve ever been in Afghanistan,” Graham told Fox News last month. “There is no substitute for American forces in Afghanistan to protect the American homeland from radical Islam.”
In response to 9/11 terror attacks by Al-Qaeda, former President George W. Bush launched the war in Afghanistan in 2001 as part of the War on Terror. The war has cost the U.S. $975 billion, including estimates for 2019, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
President Trump vowed to end the Afghanistan war in 2016, warning the United States should put “America First” rather than engage in exorbitant “endless wars.” The agreement to remove troops would enable the president to declare victory on one of his core campaign promises ahead of the 2020 election.
Trump was a frequent critic of his Republican predecessor for involving the U.S in Afghanistan for years prior to launching his bid for the presidency, but seldom addressed the conflict during the 2016 race. In 2015, he told CNN that U.S. war in Afghanistan was a “terrible mistake,” but warned a sudden withdrawal would be catastrophic and result in a “collapse in about two seconds after they leave.”
Addressing the military at Fort Meyer in 2017, Trump announced he would deploy more forces to Afghanistan and continue U.S. involvement instead of withdrawing troops, noting he had a new outlook on the conflict as commander-in-chief.
“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts, but all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office,” he explained. “Our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The American people expect to see real reforms and real results.
The president then voided restrictions on military commanders in the field imposed by the Obama administration and demanded Pakistan discontinue providing sanctuary to militant groups along its border.
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