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US, Taliban sign historic deal for future of Afghanistan

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The United States and the Afghan Taliban signed a historic agreement in Doha on Saturday, which paves the way for the complete withdrawal of American troops after 18 years of war and unprecedented inter-Afghan peace negotiations.

President Donald Trump warned at the outset that “if things go wrong, we will go back”. He will meet with the Taliban leaders “soon”, he added at a press conference in Washington.

Afghanistan
File AFP

The agreement negotiated for a year and a half in Qatar was signed by the main negotiators of the two enemy parties, Zalmay Khalilzad on the American side and the political leader of the Afghan insurgents, Abdul Ghani Baradar, in the presence of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Messrs. Khalilzad and Baradar shook hands with applause and shouts “Allah Akbar”.

This text is not a peace agreement per se, because the Afghan authorities, themselves grappling with the divisions born of a disputed presidential election, have so far been sidelined from these direct talks without previous.

But the Americans agree to immediately begin a gradual withdrawal of their troops, to reduce them from the current 13,000 to 8,600 within 135 days.

A timetable in principle provides for the total withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan “within 14 months of the signing of the agreement,” the text said.

Their departure is, however, linked to the Taliban’s compliance with their security commitments and progress in the upcoming inter-Afghan negotiations, according to senior American officials.

In return for this key demand from the Taliban, they agree to ban all acts of terrorism from the territories they control and to start real negotiations with the Kabul government with which they have so far refused to speak.

These negotiations are due to start by March 10, according to the agreement, likely in Oslo.

– Don’t “cry victory” –

“If the Taliban do not honor their commitments, they will lose their chance to sit down with other Afghans and deliberate on the future of their country,” said Pentagon chief Mark Esper, who was in Kabul to sign a joint statement with the Afghan government.

“The United States would not hesitate to cancel the agreement,” he warned.

The Taliban assure that they will honor their commitments.

“Since the agreement is signed today, and our people are happy and famous, we have stopped all our military operations throughout the country,” Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the government, told AFP in Kabul. Taliban.

In the immediate future, US President Donald Trump will brandish the pact to claim, in the campaign for his re-election in eight months, that he has kept one of his flagship promises: to end the longest war in the United States.

Despite criticism from some observers for whom it concedes too much for too little, the Trump administration assures that the guarantees provided by the insurgents respond to the primary reason for the American intervention, launched in retaliation for the attacks of September 11, 2001, carried out by Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan then ruled by the Taliban.

Under the terms of the agreement, “the Taliban will not allow any of its members, or other individuals or groups, including Al-Qaeda, to use Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

“It is a decisive and historic first step in their public recognition that they are breaking ties with Al-Qaeda,” said an American official.

Saluting the “best chance for peace in a generation”, Mike Pompeo called on the Taliban to “keep the promise of a break with Al-Qaeda”, and not to “declare victory”.

– “Reduce violence” –

US officials also say they are reassured by the seven-day “reduction of violence” period generally respected by the United States, the Taliban and the Afghan forces prior to the signing on Saturday.

This partial truce was a requirement of the American president who had abruptly canceled the signing of the agreement in September after the death of an American soldier in yet another attack in Kabul.

The belligerents are now expected to quickly agree on a total ceasefire during the inter-Afghan negotiations.

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