The Afghan Taliban welcomed the Pentagon’s announcement of the withdrawal of about 2,000 US troops from Afghanistan, saying it was a good step that would help end the country’s long-running conflict.
The Pentagon has said it will reduce its troop numbers from Afghanistan and Iraq after a 20-year war in line with President Donald Trump’s decision to end foreign wars, according to AFP.
“This is a good move and in the interest of the citizens of both countries,” Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, referring to the US announcement.
“The sooner the foreign forces withdraw, the sooner the war will end,” he said.
On the other hand, critics have expressed concern over the US decision, saying it would encourage the Taliban and undermine the gains made since 2001.
The Pentagon’s decision calls for the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Afghanistan by January 15, with President-elect Joe Biden likely to take office a week later.
The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is part of Donald Trump’s plan to end military intervention on Afghan soil and was agreed to in an agreement with the Taliban on February 29 this year.
The Trump administration had agreed to withdraw all foreign troops from Afghanistan by May 2021.
Under the agreement, the Taliban promised not to attack US forces and would not allow organizations such as al-Qaeda and ISIS to re-emerge.
Concerns over US troop withdrawal
Germany has expressed concern over the imminent withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, saying it could affect peace efforts.
It should be noted that there are hundreds of German troops in northern Afghanistan.
“We are concerned about the possible impact of the US announcement on the peace talks in Afghanistan,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
“We must not create additional obstacles, especially the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he said.
Afghan government officials have called the decision to withdraw US troops “hasty” and said the number of US troops in Afghanistan would be limited to 2,500 after January 15.
Rehmatullah Andar, a spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council, said: “Afghan security and defence forces are already conducting 96% of their operations independently and are ready to defend their country against their enemies.”
Following an agreement between the United States and the Taliban, the Pentagon withdrew several troops from various bases in Afghanistan and relocated thousands of troops.
For the first time, inter-Afghan talks between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives began in the Qatari capital, Doha, on September 12, with the aim of ending decades of war in Afghanistan.
The inaugural ceremony of the historic peace talks in Doha was inaugurated by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and was attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmai Khalilzad.
The talks will seek to address difficult issues, including a permanent ceasefire, the rights of women and minorities, and the disarmament of thousands of Taliban fighters and militias, some of whom are in alliance with the government.
Despite the start of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, attacks continue in Afghanistan, with bombings and attacks on a daily basis.
At the opening ceremony of the inter-Afghan talks, the Afghan government and other allies, including the United States, called for a ceasefire, but the Taliban made no mention of a temporary ceasefire before coming to the negotiating table.
Abdullah Abdullah, who is leading the Afghan government’s peace process, suggested that the Taliban could offer a ceasefire in exchange for the release of prisoners of war, “it could be one of their ideas or a demand.”
It should be noted that the peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban was agreed upon on February 29, at which time the agreement was described as an opportunity to improve peace in the 40-year-old war.
Negotiations were initially expected to begin on February 29 within a few weeks of the agreement, but delays in the timeline from the start had disrupted it.
Prior to the Taliban’s agreement with the United States, it was agreed that the Afghan government would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban would release 1,000 government and military officials in return. The Afghan government seemed to be avoiding it.