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Trump confirmed he spoke by phone Tuesday with Baradar, a remarkable moment after nearly two decades of war with the group that sheltered Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. , , terror attacks on the US
Trump called it a “very good talk.” The Taliban said in a statement that Trump called Afghans a “tough people” who “have a great country and I understand that you are fighting for your homeland.”
The Taliban sources say the group will continue to train fighters but plans to wait for the outcome of the intra-Afghan dialogue before officially announcing a spring offensive.
“Presently we are training around , fighters in our dozens of training centers across Afghanistan, “one commander said. “As per our agreement with the US, we will not carry out attacks in the cities and district headquarters in Afghanistan. But we will continue our attacks in the rural areas of the country.”
The Taliban are suspicious that Trump could back out of the withdrawal plan after the US presidential election in November, multiple Taliban sources said.
“President Trump is straightforward but then unpredictable and you can expect anything from him,” one Taliban representative said.
Both Republican hardliners and former Obama administration officials have criticized the deal, saying it could allow Afghanistan to turn into a sanctuary for terrorists again.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.,
said Saturday the agreement “includes concessions that could threaten the security of the United States” and lacks a “disclosed mechanism to verify Taliban compliance.”
Former White House national security adviser John Bolton called the agreement “an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population.”
“This is an Obama-style deal,” he (Tweet . “Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda, and to America’s enemies generally.”
Susan Rice, who was President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, was also critical of the agreement, saying it’s not a deal the Obama administration could have countenanced.
Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population. This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda, and to America’s enemies generally. – John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton)
The pact suggests the US is likely to withdraw all troops before a lasting Afghan peace is achieved, she wrote Wednesday in the New York Times, which means “abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban wolves.”
“Worse” , after months, the United States will be left without any military or counterterrorism capacity in Afghanistan, effectively
subcontracting America’s security to the Taliban , “she added.
Seth Jones, a counterterrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who consults frequently with the Pentagon, said the Taliban’s leadership in Pakistan is not going to be satisfied with a power-sharing arrangement with the Afghan government.
“Most of the people that matter on the Quetta Shura are not going to be happy until they get Kabul, “he said, referring to the Taliban leadership council.
The Afghan governmen t, which was not a party to the U.S.-Taliban deal, is also skeptical. Afghan political leaders fear the U.S. It is ready to abandon the country to the Taliban without guarantees it will keep up military and financial support for Kabul or keep its troops in place until a peace treaty is agreed upon, a senior Afghan official said.
The agreement is already facing serious headwinds.
The Afghan government said it was not ready to release up to 5, 03 captured Taliban fighters before the start of peace talks with the insurgents, as the deal proposed. Then the Taliban said it was not ready to extend a partial truce with the Afghan government as U.S. Officials had hoped, and the insurgency promptly launched attacks on Afghan security forces. On Wednesday, the U.S. Military carried out its first airstrike since the deal was clinched, coming to the aid of Afghan forces under fire in the country south.
Trump has made it clear he wants to end America’s foray in Afghanistan, the nation’s longest war.
Last fall, NBC News reported that the Pentagon had begun drawing up plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan in case Trump surprised military leaders by ordering an immediate drawdown
As he did in Syria .
There is broad consensus among American foreign policy makers and legislators that the war should end as quickly as possible through a political solution. But many Pentagon and intelligence officials argue that if the U.S. withdraws all troops without a peace settlement, it will make it much more difficult to detect and destroy terrorist activity by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group or ISIS.
Some experts have expressed skepticism that the Taliban will ever stop harboring terrorists, regardless of any paper agreement.
Former CIA official London points out that Al Qaeda figures have married into Taliban families, cementing ties between the two groups.
In October, when a joint US and Afghan team hunted down and killed Asim Umar, Al Qaeda’s South Asia chief, they found him embedded with the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, officials said at the time.
“The Taliban could not assure its followers’ abandonment of their terrorist guests even if they wanted, “London said. “Many of these groups are inextricably tied through marriage, tribal ties and military interdependence.”
Former U.S. diplomats and Western officials briefed on the Taliban talks say Trump’s special envoy, Khalilzad, has made a good-faith effort at trying to hammer out a way for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan. But Trump’s impatience has meant Khalilzad has had to work under an almost impossible deadline, all the while fearing that a single presidential comment could upend the deal.
In September, with a draft agreement ready, Trump derailed the deal in a tweet, saying the pact would be called off due to an attack that killed a US service member.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar sign a peace agreement during a ceremony in the Qatari capital of Doha on Feb. , . Karim Jaafar / AFP – Getty Images At the signing ceremony at a five-star hotel in Doha on Saturday, American officials mingled with bearded Taliban negotiations negotiators clad in black turbans. Pompeo said the U.S. withdrawal would hinge on whether the Taliban kept their word.
“We will closely watch the Taliban’s compliance with their commitments and calibrate the pace of our withdrawal to their actions. This is how we will ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a base for international terrorists, “Pompeo said.
As a Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo in blasted the Obama administration for exchanging five detained Taliban leaders in return for the release of a US soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.
But in an interview with Fox News on Monday, Pompeo rejected criticism that the deal was driven by Trump’s re-election campaign and said that it was aimed at ensuring the Taliban cut ties with terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda.
“I met with them myself when I was in Doha. I looked them in the eye. They revalidated that commitment, “to break with Al Qaeda, Pompeo said.
” Now they’ve got to execute it. Now we’ll be able to see, the world will be able to see, if they truly live up to that obligation. “
Mushtaq Yusufzai reported from Pakistan.
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