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Special Envoy: US will withdraw nearly 5,000 troops from Afghanistan

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The United States will withdraw nearly 5,000 troops from Afghanistan and close five military bases in 135 days under an agreement with the Taliban, US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday.

Khalilzad said in an interview with Al-Tala’a news channel that the agreement reached after months of negotiations with representatives of the movement must first get the approval of US President Donald Trump before signing it.

“In principle, we have reached our goal.”

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday the president had seen the draft agreement and would discuss its details before giving an opinion.

In return for a phased withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban will commit to not allowing militants to use Afghanistan’s territory to plan attacks on the United States and its allies.

The agreement also includes provisions for “inter-Afghan” talks to reach a broader political settlement to end fighting between the Taliban and the Western-backed government.

But the details of any future negotiations remain ambiguous, with the Taliban refusing to deal directly with the government as an illegitimate and puppet regime in the hands of the United States.

Afghan President Siddiq Siddiqui’s spokesman told reporters on Monday that Ghani had met Khalilzad and would “study and evaluate” the details of the draft agreement.

“But for us a real peace or the way to a real peace is to end the violence and negotiate directly with the Taliban.”

Khalilzad, the Afghan-born US diplomat who has completed nine rounds of talks with Taliban delegates to end the war in Afghanistan, is due to meet the country’s leaders in Kabul this week to build consensus before signing the deal.

The negotiations took place against the backdrop of ongoing violence. The Taliban launched two major attacks on the cities of Kunduz and Bel Khamri in northern Afghanistan over the weekend.

Afghan security forces have forced insurgents to retreat from the two cities, but a suicide bomber blew himself up on Monday in Kunduz, killing at least six policemen and wounding 15, officials and the Taliban said.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. Forces led by Afghanistan invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban. Trump made no secret of his desire to withdraw his troops from there even before he took office.

But there are concerns among Afghan and US national security officials that a US withdrawal could enter Afghanistan into a new civil war that could be a prelude to the Taliban’s return to power and a haven for militant groups around the world, including Islamic State.

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