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Freedom's Sentinel - 2019

A Taliban official said on 06 February 2019 that the United States had promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, but the US military said no timeframe had been set. Abdul Salam Hanafi, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting in Moscow between the Taliban and other prominent Afghan figures, said American officials pledged the pullout would begin this month. "The Americans told us that from the beginning of February to the end of April half of the troops from Afghanistan will be withdrawn," Hanafi told reporters.

But Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Rob Manning said the US military had received no orders to begin withdrawing. "Peace talks with the Taliban continue, but [the Defense Department] has not received a directive to change the force structure in Afghanistan," said Manning.

The American negotiating team led by US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was seemingly tasked with finding a speedy exit strategy to bolseter Donald Trump's re-election campaign. By August 2019 the Trump administration was close to a deal with the Taliban that called to the insurgents the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, a diplomatic coup by the Taliban, who had presented themselves as a government in exilse since they were driven from power in the US-led intervention in 2001. Afghan officials and skeptics of the negotiations viewed any such reference as repugnant, and a damaging concession. This nomenclature built the narrative that the Taliban had forced the US out of Afghanistan just as the mujahideen had forced the Soviets out decades earlier. The militants had long dismissed the Western-backed Afghan government as a “puppet” regime. The former Taliban regime, which was in power between 1996 and 2001, was recognized by only three governments. By late 2019 the Taliban, by any name, controlled more of Afghanistan than at any point since 2001. Under the proposed deal, the United States would cease military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Taliban would not target US and NATO forces. But the Taliban would continue operations against the Afghan government.

Pakistan arranged Washington’s direct peace negotiations with Taliban insurgents who are fighting local and US-led international troops in neighboring Afghanistan. By July 2019 the months-long US-Taliban dialogue brought the two adversaries in the 18-year-old Afghan war close to concluding a peace agreement to pave the ground for ending what has become the longest US foreign military intervention. The Taliban refuses to engage in peace talks with Afghan interlocutors until it concludes an agreement with Washington that would outline a timetable for withdrawal of all American troops. In exchange, the agreement would bind the insurgents to prevent foreign militants from using Taliban-controlled areas for international terrorism. The Taliban insists that once the agreement was signed with the U.S. in the presence of international guarantors it would initiate inter-Afghan talks to discuss a ceasefire and issues related to political governance in the country.

President Donald Trump’s nominee for the top military officer of the United States said 11 July 2019 that leaving Afghanistan prematurely would be a "strategic mistake,” as the US and the Taliban are negotiating a potential peace settlement to end nearly two decades of war. "I think it is slow, it's painful, it's hard. I spent a lot of my life in Afghanistan, but I also think it's necessary," Army Gen. Mark Milley, the current Army Chief of Staff and nominee for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers at a Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing.

“We’ve buried soldiers. Arlington is full of our comrades. We understand absolutely full well the hazards of our chosen profession,” Milley said in response to questions from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, about whether he would be willing to tell Trump that he thought the president was wrong on any issue. “We know what this is about and we are not going to be intimidated into making stupid decisions. We will give our best military advice regardless of consequences to our self,” he said.

The United States and the Taliban agreed 26 January 2019 on a plan for American troops to leave Afghanistan. In return, the insurgent group had given assurances that no international terrorist groups would be allowed to use Afghan soil to threaten America or any other country in the future. The understanding was the outcome of nearly a week of intense, uninterrupted dialogue between U.S. and insurgent representatives in Doha, Qatar. Representatives of the host government and Pakistan were also in attendance. The U.S. drawdown plan would require the Taliban to observe a cease-fire. Both the withdrawal and the cease-fire, however, would be "limited and conditional." Agreement on a conditional and limited withdrawal and cease-fire would give both sides an opportunity to test the waters without taking too huge a political risk.

Pakistan took full credit for persuading the Taliban to engage in the dialogue at the U.S. request. "Pakistan's success is that it has sincerely and faithfully diverted the recent positive environment and energy in its relations with the U.S. to the complete benefit of the Afghan peace process, and Afghanistan as a whole," a senior official said. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's nascent government had made resolution of the Afghan conflict its top foreign policy priority.

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Page last modified: 30-09-2021 18:44:28 ZULU