‘Conditions-based’ withdrawal will be complete in 14 months if Taliban keep commitments
The United States signed a historic peace deal with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, Saturday that officials hope will mark the beginning of the end of America’s longest war. Under the deal, all U.S. troops would withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months if the Taliban meet their commitments.
The signing between Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban officials will set the stage for the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 19 years of violence that has killed more than 3,500 Americans and coalition troops and tens of thousands of Afghans since the U.S. invasion following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
At the height of the war, more than 100,000 American troops were in the country and tens of thousands of others from the U.S.-led NATO coalition.
As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Doha for the signing, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, to appear beside Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for a joint declaration.
“Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we are finally making substantial progress toward ending our nation’s longest war,” Esper said. “Today’s release of the Joint Declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States marks a pivotal moment in the peace process.”
But the agreement is only the first step to an enduring peace for the war-torn country. The U.S. withdrawal hinges on the Taliban’s fulfillment of major commitments that have hobbled peace agreements in the past, including breaking with al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, and maintaining the reduction in violence seen over the last week, Esper said. It is also dependent on difficult negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government over power-sharing and a lasting cease-fire.
If these conditions are met, the U.S. will initially reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan from roughly 13,000 to 8,600, a senior administration official told reporters on Thursday ahead of the signing.
Esper stressed that the withdrawal is “conditions-based.”
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