US Troop Withdrawal Will Help Further Afghan Peace: Qureshi

Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Author

23 December, 2018

A separate USA force also conducts strikes on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and the Taliban.

The spokesman for Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani said on Friday the of half of the 14,000 USA troops serving in Afghanistan will have little impact on the fighting capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces.

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has met Taliban representatives during at least three separate rounds of direct talks in recent months as part of the effort to encourage negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul.

A recent USA military report said Taliban control over Afghanistan has increased in recent months, and the government now controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country's districts - the lowest level recorded since it began tracking the data in 2015. Following the United States announcement of withdrawing half of its 14000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, a Taliban official was quoted by media as saying: "Frankly speaking, we weren't expecting that immediate USA response. we are more than happy". "This likely would cause the general collapse of the (Afghan National Security and Defense Force) as a cohesive fighting force and lead to the return of the warlords".

Trump's reported decision apparently surprised Afghan officials, even though the US president had previously voiced opposition to the USA war effort there. His decision was made public a mere few hours after he abruptly announced the US was withdrawing troops from Syria.

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Analysts interviewed by RFE/RL warn that a partial withdrawal would further degrade security, jeopardize possible peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending its 17-year insurgency, and strain Washington's relationship with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

In an interview with Afghanistan's TOLO TV on Thursday hours before the withdrawal plans were announced he noted Trump had campaigned for president on a promise to end the Afghan war, which has already cost Americans almost $1 trillion.

Since then, America has lost more than 2,400 soldiers and spent more than $900 billion in its longest war. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, the official said Taliban officials think the promised departure could help the peace process because it could "lead to trust building that the US wants a political solution". Nearly 17,000 troops from 39 nations take part in NATO's Resolute Support mission helping to train and mentor Afghan security forces.

The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat mission in 2014, but American and allied troops remain, conducting strikes on the Islamic State group and the Taliban and working to train and build the Afghan military.

US troops invaded Afghanistan in November 2001 in response to the September 11 attacks.


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