The US and the Taliban have reached an agreement for peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan peace deal sees the US withdrawing 5,000 troops from the country and shutting down five bases within 135 days. The deal is currently in the draft phase, so it must still be approved by US President Donald Trump. The Afghan peace deal comes after months of negotiations.
US to withdraw troops under terms of Afghan peace deal
According to Reuters, chief US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad told Tolo News television in an interview that the draft is closed and that “in principle, we have got there.” The US and the Taliban agreed that in exchange for withdrawing the troops, the insurgent movement will agree not to allow militant groups like Islamic State or al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a base for attacks on the US and its allies.
The first stage of the withdrawal will include 5,000 troops, but Khalilzad did not say how long it would take or how many more stages would be required for the rest of the 14,000 US troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan. Taliban officials have said in the past that all foreign troops must leave the country.
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The goal of the Afghan peace deal is to not only end the war but also reduce violence in the country. However, he said it did not contain any formal ceasefire agreement. Afghans would have to negotiate among themselves to agree to some kind of settlement, h e added. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he has been briefed on a draft of the deal and will study it before offering his opinion, Reuters added.
Khalilzad also said “intra-Afghan” talks could be held in Norway and would aim for a wider settlement on politics and a plan to end the war between the Western-backed Afghan government and the Taliban. However, details about such negotiations are still not clear because the Taliban has long refused to talk directly to the Afghan government, which it has dubbed a “puppet” regime.
Many officials in the Afghan government have resented the fact that the US and the Taliban have left them out of the negotiations. Ghani wasn’t even allowed to keep a copy of the draft agreement after he was briefed on it.
Many things about the deal remain unclear as of now. For example, it’s unclear what status the Taliban will have under the terms of the agreement. The draft refers to the Taliban by its preferred name, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. However, the Afghan government objects to that reference because they believe it affords the insurgents equal status with the government. The Afghan peace deal also did not discuss presidential elections. Ghani is seeking re-election to another five-year term on Sept. 28. The Taliban has repeatedly rejected the nation’s elections.
The US and the Taliban have conducted nine rounds of negotiations. Khalilzad is set to meet with several Afghan leaders this week in Kabul before the agreement is signed.
Violence continues in Afghanistan
Despite the talk of a peace deal, violence in Afghanistan continues. The Taliban carried out two massive assaults on Pul-e Khumri and Kunduz over the weekend. Afghan troops pushed back the insurgents from the two cities, but a suicide bomber took out at least six police officers and wounded another 15, officials said.
Because of the violence, there are concerns about whether withdrawing US troops will result in a new civil war in Afghanistan. Some worry that the Taliban could simply take over again and international militant groups like the Islamic State could find a home there after US troops leave.