Elites United in Panic Over Syria Pullout, Afghanistan Drawdown
24 December, 2018, 04:14
The Donald Trump administration has ordered the American military to start withdrawing roughly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, US officials said, a move that Kabul claimed would not impact the security of the war-torn country.
The Taliban are already stronger today than they have been since their ouster in 2001, controlling or holding sway over almost half the country.
Several high-ranking Afghan military officials, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the morale of Afghanistan's struggling security forces was already at a dangerously low level.
The officials called America's withdrawal a defeat, comparing it to the USA evacuation from Vietnam and Russia's 1989 forced withdrawal from Afghanistan that capped a failed 10-year campaign.
Taliban Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid would not comment about the troops' withdrawal when contacted.
"Frankly speaking we weren't expecting that immediate USA response", the official told AFP from an unknown location in northwest Pakistan.
If a U.S. drawdown goes ahead, "We just gave them half of what they wanted in all of this". "We expect the Taliban to make good use of this opportunity that has arrived for Afghans to find a solution for all these security and political disagreements", he said, referring to the peace process.
President Ghani's administration said Friday that the government yielded to demands of Afghans in forming a national consensus on peace, yet the rebel movement was adamant on fighting.
The Pentagon is developing plans to withdraw up to half of the 14,000 American troops serving in Afghanistan, US officials said.
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However, Taliban did hold talks in 2015 with Afghan government officials first in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang province and then in Murree in Pakistan due to the efforts of Beijing and Islamabad. The Afghan government even sent members of its 12-member negotiations team under the leadership of President Ghani's Chief of Staff Abdul Salam Rahimi to the UAE in the hope that Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and the U.S. would be able to convince the Taliban to meet them.
Shaima Dabeer, a 50-year-old housewife in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, said she feared for the future of her children.
Trump´s decision apparently came Tuesday as Khalilzad met with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, part of efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table with Kabul.
Veteran Afghanistan-born USA diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad, too appeared upbeat as he said he held "productive" meetings in the UAE with Afghan and worldwide partners "to promote intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict".
Intizar Khadim, a political analyst in Kabul, said he did not believe Trump would push to withdraw all USA troops, a decision that would likely face pushback from congressional hawks.
Critics suggest the president's twin foreign policy decisions on Syria and Afghanistan could unspool a series of cascading and unpredictable events across the Middle East and in Afghanistan.
Since then, U.S. forces have provided training and advice, assisting in military operations only when requested by Afghan troops.
In that year, more than 100,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops pulled out of the country and handed off security to Afghans.
One official said the troops could be out by summer, but no final decision has been made.
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