United States ‘vowed’ to withdraw half its troops from Afghanistan, says Taliban

The writer is a member faculty of contemporary studies at NDU Islamabad and can be reached

Elaborating on the growing talk of a peace deal in Afghanistan, the Taliban says that they have received commitments for a major U.S. drawdown from the country in the next couple of months.

Senators from across party lines in the United States recently backed an amendment opposing the US president's plan to pull troops out of Syria and Afghanistan with a decisive majority, underlining that the troop withdrawal could allow the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group and al-Qaeda to regroup and destabilize not only Afghanistan but the Middle East.

But the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who led the United States side at the talks in Doha, Qatar, has repeatedly stressed that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

No representative from President Ashraf Ghani's government - which the Taliban considers a USA puppet - was invited to either occasion, angering officials in Kabul. But in anticipation of such an order in the future, given the Trump administration's achievement of what it calls a "framework" for potential peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, military planners have been considering plans for how a pullout might be conducted.

Khalilzad is in a hurry to find a peace deal for Afghanistan that would allow America to bring home its troops after 17 years of war.

Sources close to the Taliban have meanwhile said changes to the team could help the process.

Earlier, Russia's RIA news agency had quoted a Taliban official at peace talks in Moscow as saying that Washington had promised to pull out half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April.

"No power in the country can dissolve the government", said Ghani, who added he was ready to "stand and defend our country".

Oil prices drops below $61.5
US West Texas Intermediate ( WTI ) crude futures were at $53.74 per barrel at 0153 GMT, up 8 cents from their last settlement. The recent downswings in the crude oil market have been highly correlated with the release of the bearish economic data.

"It is Russian Federation against the USA all over again, but the other way around", Fakur said, in reference to Washington's support former Mujahidin fighters against the former Soviet Union-backed government in the 1990s.

President Ashraf Ghani meanwhile said on Tuesday he will not make assumptions about the Moscow talks and will only comment once the outcomes have been released.

Nur said the talks, which stretched into late evening on Tuesday, will continue on Wednesday and possibly even on Thursday. Taliban meet United States officials and attend a peace conference in Moscow.

"Pakistan's actions are often a source of "frustration" to US" regional efforts in Afghanistan, a top American general has said as he asked Islamabad to cease its behaviour undermining stability and play constructive role in achieving peace in South Asia. "They can say what they want", the Afghan president added.

"However, Pakistan's actions are often a source of frustration to the USA regional efforts in Afghanistan", General Votel said.

Two days of unprecedented talks in Moscow with high-ranking Afghan politicians end with disagreements over women's rights and demands for a new constitution.

Karzai led a delegation of about 40 Afghan politicians - although without representatives of the current government in Kabul - at the two-day round of talks in Moscow on February 5-6. "Let hundreds of such meetings be held, but these would only be paper (agreements) unless there is an agreement by the Afghan government; Afghanistan's national assembly and Afghanistan's legal institutions", he stressed. He did not mention the Afghans who have died (24,000 civilians since 2009, and 45,000 members of the security forces in the last five years), let alone the nation's broader suffering in the world's deadliest conflict.

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