The United States signed a historic deal with Taliban on Saturday that pave the way toward a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step toward ending the 18-year-war there. Many expect that talks to come between the multiple Afghan sides will be far more complicated.
The deal was signed in the Qatari capital Doha by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo witness the ceremony.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper meanwhile traveled to Kabul on a visit that officials and experts said was aimed at reassuring the Afghan government about the United States’ commitment to the country.
For U.S President Donald Trump, the deal represents a chance to make good on his promise to bring U.S. troops home. But security experts have also called it a foreign policy gamble that would give the Taliban international legitimacy.
Today is a monumental day for Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said on Twitter. It is about making peace and crafting a common brighter future. We stand with Afghanistan.
Hours before the deal, the Taliban ordered all its fighters in Afghanistan to refrain from any kind of attack, for the happiness of the nation.
The biggest thing is that we hope the U.S. remain committed to their promises during the negotiation and peace deal, said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban.
Mujahid said it was irritating and provocative that foreign military aircraft continued to fly over Taliban territory, but militia fighters were following the order to stand-down.
For millions of Afghans, the deal represents some hope for an end to years of bloodshed.
It is also decided by the two leaders The United States and NATO withdraw all troops in Afghanistan within 14 months if the Taliban upheld its commitments, according to a joint statement released by the U.S. and Afghan governments on Saturday.
The Coalition will complete the withdrawal of their remaining forces from Afghanistan within 14 months following the announcement of this joint declaration and the U.S.-Taliban agreement subject to the Taliban’s fulfillment of its commitments under the U.S.-Taliban agreement, the statement said.
The U.S. would initially reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, which was set to be signed in the Qatari capital of Doha in the afternoon.
Later US President Trump said in a statement on Friday said the deal will pave way for U.S. troop numbers to drop to 8,600 from about 13,000 in the weeks following the deal.
Further reductions of Western forces will hinge on the Taliban adhering to a reduction in violence pledge, a condition that will be assessed by the United States.
Under the deal, the Taliban wants 5,000 fighters to be released from Afghan-run jails, but it is not clear whether the Afghan government will agree.
There are also questions about whether Taliban fighters loyal to hardline Islamist splinter groups will be willing to adhere to the reduction in violence agreement.
Some senior commanders of the Taliban in Doha for the signing said they will ensure that the U.S. and Afghan governments accept all the conditions lay down by the group, according to Afghan defense officials.
Sources in the Taliban earlier this month said they were prepared to launch a spring offensive and had recruited more than 6,000 fighters and suicide bombers if the agreement collapses.