US on Track to Pull Troops from Afghanistan Despite Turmoil

Foreign Affairs


Washington: Even as violence continues in Afghanistan and the peace process is stalled, the United States is on track to meet its commitment to the Taliban to withdraw several thousand troops from Afghanistan by summer.

Even though peace prevailing in the region is still uncertain, US officials say they will reduce to 8,600 troops by July 15 and abandon five bases. In the absence of Afghan peace talks, the Trump administration may face the prospect of fully withdrawing even as the Taliban remains at war with the government.

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This has caused concern among some American lawmakers with Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee saying that “withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan won’t end the war — it will just let the terrorists win.”

Some question whether the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha, Qatar on February 29, which the Trump administration billed as “a decisive step to achieve a negotiated peace” was instead mainly a withdrawal agreement.

“President Trump promised to bring our troops home from overseas and is following through on that promise,” the White House said when the Doha deal was signed.

The deal stipulated that the Taliban would start intra-Afghan peace negotiations on March 10, but that has not happened. The Taliban and the Afghan government also have squabbled over a promised release of each other’s prisoners.

Stephen Biddle, a Columbia University professor of international and public affairs and a former adviser to US commanders in Kabul said the Doha deal “gave away almost all the leverage we had in exchange for virtually nothing.”

“It looks very much like a situation in which the Taliban have concluded that the Americans are out, and they’re going to play out the string and see what happens when we’re gone,” Biddle said.

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