Donald Trump sees ‘good chance’ for Afghanistan withdrawal deal with Taliban this month





Updated

February 14, 2020 13:11:32

US President Donald Trump says he thinks there is a “good chance” the United States will this month reach an agreement with the Taliban on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Key points:

  • Mike Pompeo said the talks had achieved “a pretty important breakthrough”
  • A US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda attacks
  • Mr Pompeo is expected to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Munich

Mr Trump’s comments were the latest indication of significant progress in negotiations that the United States and the Taliban have been holding since December in Qatar.

“I think we’re very close,” he told podcast host Geraldo Rivera.

“I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have a deal … We’re going to know over the next two weeks.”

Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the talks had achieved “a pretty important breakthrough”.

Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the sides had been negotiating a proposed seven-day reduction in violence that some politicians saw as a test of the Taliban leadership’s control of its fighters.

A US-Taliban peace deal, which sources said could be signed this month, would pave the way for a withdrawal from Afghanistan of some 13,000 US troops and thousands of other NATO personnel, 18 years after a US-led coalition invaded following the September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

‘We are not there yet’

The demand to sharply reduce violence has been partly why the talks had been deadlocked, according to a Western diplomat in Kabul.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Munich, where he will attend a security conference, Mr Pompeo expressed both optimism and caution.

“We have made real progress over the last handful of days and the President gave us the authority to continue to have the conversations,” Mr Pompeo said.

“We are not there yet.

“We hope we can get to a place where we can get a significant reduction in violence, not only on a piece of paper but demonstrated.

“If we can get there, if we can hold that posture for a while, then we’ll be able to begin the real, serious discussion, which is all the Afghans sitting at a table.”

Mr Pompeo is expected to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Munich, a former senior Afghan official said on Wednesday.

During a press conference in Brussels, Mr Esper said if the process was to go forward there would be continuous evaluation of any violence.

The news of a potential agreement comes amid continued attacks by the Taliban, who control about 40 per cent of Afghanistan, according to Afghan defence officials.

Last month the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a US government agency, assessed that there had been a record-high number of attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government forces in the last three months of 2019.

Although the Taliban is negotiating with US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, it refuses to talk directly to Mr Ghani’s Government, which it denounces as a puppet of the West.

US Democratic representative Tom Malinowski, who has expressed deep reservations about the talks with the Taliban, said he viewed the proposal of a reduction in violence as a test of the Taliban leadership.

“We also need to see whether the Taliban leadership conducting these negotiations actually can control what their forces in the field do,” he said.

“And I’m glad to see that intra-Afghan talks are supposed to start if this test is passed.”

Reuters

Topics:

unrest-conflict-and-war,

territorial-disputes,

government-and-politics,

world-politics,

terrorism,

afghanistan,

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First posted

February 14, 2020 12:27:28



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