The US has closed five military bases in Afghanistan as part of an agreement with the Taliban, a Pentagon official said Tuesday. The official, who wanted to remain anonymous, confirmed the bases were in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika and Laghman provinces.
According to the deal, the US had 135 days to fulfil its pledge to reduce troops to 8,600 from nearly 14,000 in the conflict-hit country, which ended Monday.
The agreement was signed Feb. 29 and is aimed at reducing violence in hopes of fostering bilateral talks between the Afghan government and the extremist group to end the war-torn nation’s 18-year conflict.
The Taliban agreed not to allow al-Qaeda, Daesh or any other militant group to operate in areas they control, as part of the pact.
“The U.S. has worked hard to carry out the 1st phase of its commitments under the Agreement, including to reduce forces & depart five bases. NATO troops have come down in proportional numbers,” Khalilzad said on Twitter.
We have reached Day 135, a key milestone in implementation of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement. The U.S. has worked hard to carry out the 1st phase of its commitments under the Agreement, including to reduce forces & depart five bases. NATO troops have come down in proportional numbers
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) July 14, 2020
Afghan media outlet Tolo News reported the five U.S. bases that closed are located in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika and Laghman provinces, in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The larger U.S. bases in Bagram, located outside Kabul, and Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan remain open.
Despite the reduction in U.S. soldiers as part of the pact, violence between the Taliban and Afghan forces has spiked in recent months, according to the Afghan government.
Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, US President Donald Trump has reiterated his resolve to “bring our soldiers back home” from Afghanistan, publicly questioning the purpose of the U.S. military presence in the war-torn region of Afghanistan.
Donald Trump reemphasised his objective amid reports that the ongoing U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan “is well ahead of schedule” outlined in a historical pact signed between the US and Taliban to end the nearly 19-year-old war.
“We are acting as a police force, not the fighting force that we are, in Afghanistan,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. After 19 years, it was time for Afghan authorities to police their own country, he wrote.
Under the U.S.-Taliban pact, Washington had promised to reduce its military strength in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July before withdrawing all soldiers, along with several thousand partners in a NATO-led non-combatant mission by mid-2021.