The Afghan Taliban in negotiations with the US asserted that no timeframe has been agreed for the pullout of US troops from Afghanistan despite Washington’s earlier commitment to withdraw half of its forces from the war-torn country.
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A Taliban official stated that Washington had promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, but the US says it has not set a timeframe for that. “The Americans told us that they would withdraw half of their troops from the beginning of February to the end of April,” Taliban official Abdul Salam Hanafi was quoted as saying by RIA.
A US State Department spokeswoman said Washington had “not agreed to any timeline for a possible drawdown of troops. Hanafi said Washington and the Taliban had agreed at talks that all foreign troops would eventually leave and that Afghanistan would never be used as a base for attacks on the United States.
“The timeline (of the withdrawal) will be discussed at future meetings,” Hanafi said. US and Taliban delegations met in Qatar in January and are due to meet again this month.
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday his administration had accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan and would be able to reduce US troops there as negotiations advanced to end America’s longest war. A US official said in December that Trump was planning to withdraw more than 5,000 of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
Taliban Insists all US Troops Must Leave
Trump on Tuesday used his State of the Union address to stress the importance of accelerated talks with the Taliban to end the longest of America’s “endless wars”. Trump offered no specifics about when he would bring home the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan but said progress in negotiations with the Taliban would enable a troop reduction and a “focus on counter-terrorism”.
The Taliban, however, rejected the idea and reiterated on Wednesday their long-held demand that all foreign troops get out of Afghanistan. Asked about Trump’s speech, a Taliban official told Reuters that all foreign troops in Afghanistan had to go.
“At the first step, we want all the foreign forces to leave and end the military presence in our country,” said Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for a Taliban office in Qatar and a member of a Taliban team meeting Afghan opposition politicians in Moscow.
“But after ending their military presence, their non-military teams can come and we need them too, they can come and take part in the reconstruction and development process,” he said.
Moscow talks ‘very successful’
The Taliban officials were in Moscow for talks with Afghan opposition politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai.
The militant group on Wednesday hailed two days of unprecedented talks with Afghan politicians as “very successful”, despite disagreements over women’s rights and its demands for an Islamic constitution in the war-torn country.
The extraordinary gathering in the Russian capital was the Taliban’s most significant with Afghan politicians in years, and concluded with both sides agreeing to future talks and ensuring a “durable and dignified peace” for the people of Afghanistan.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, head of the Taliban delegation, made a rare appearance in front of international media alongside Karzai after the talks. “This meeting was very successful,” the Taliban official told reporters. “We agreed on many points and I am hopeful that in future, we can succeed further, and finally we can reach a solution. We can find complete peace in Afghanistan.”
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