RNA - The fragile peace negotiations between Washington and the Taliban may have hit a snag, as the US secretary of state has reportedly refused to sign on to a draft of the peace deal as it currently stands, according to a new report by Time Magazine.
On Monday, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who is in Kabul after wrapping up Doha talks, told TOLOnews that the US and the Taliban have reached an agreement in principle and it is closed, but added that the document is not final until US President Donald Trump approves it.
The two sides have held nine rounds of talks in the past ten months.
Khalilzad said that based on the draft agreement, the US will withdraw 5,000 troops from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days if conditions in the agreement are addressed by the Taliban.
But the deal doesn’t ensure several crucial things, those familiar with the discussions stated as quoted by TIME.
It doesn’t guarantee the continued presence of US counterterrorism forces to battle al-Qaeda, the survival of the pro-US government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan, the report added.
“No one speaks with certainty. None,” said an Afghan official taking part in briefings on the deal with Khalilzad quoted by TIME.
“It is all based on hope. There is no trust. There is no history of trust. There is no evidence of honesty and sincerity from the Taliban”, and intercepted communications “show that they think they have fooled the US while the US believes that should the Taliban cheat, they will pay a hefty price”.
In the meantime, Pompeo stated that the US has “delivered” on its original mission in Afghanistan—to prevent al-Qaeda militants from using the country as a safe harbor to plan and execute terrorist attacks.
“If you go back and look at the days following 9/11, the objectives set out were pretty clear: to go defeat al-Qaeda, the group that had launched the attack on the United States of America from Afghanistan. And today, al-Qaeda … doesn’t even amount to a shadow of its former self in Afghanistan,” Pompeo told The Daily Signal in an exclusive interview.
“We have delivered,” the US secretary of state added in the telephone interview.
Despite the shifting goal posts for what victory in Afghanistan looks like, Pompeo noted that US forces have been “successful” in achieving their original mission.
“There is a real achievement that has taken place, and we have in fact for now almost two decades greatly reduced the risk that an attack on the United States of America would emanate from Afghan soil, or for that matter from Pakistan as well,” Pompeo told The Daily Signal.
Pompeo told The Daily Signal that a drawdown in Afghanistan could free up US counterterrorism resources to wage a fight that is now more globally dispersed than in the period immediately following the September 2001 terror attacks.
“The question today is how do we make sure that we match today’s requirements with American resources to most effectively keep America safe,” Pompeo stated.
The US mission in Afghanistan is called Operation Freedom’s Sentinel—part of NATO’s larger Resolute Support Mission in the country.
“We want to get it right. We want to reduce risk,” Pompeo said, adding, “I’m very confident that our policy in the Middle East and in South Central Asia will reflect both the desire to make sure we don’t put Americans at risk unnecessarily and, second, to make sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the risk that terror will emanate not only from Afghanistan, but from Iraq, or from Syria, or from anyplace else in the world.”
Pompeo acknowledged that the security situation in Afghanistan remains fragile, making clear that a US troop withdrawal is not tantamount to a declaration of victory.
“There’s al-Qaeda not only in Afghanistan today but in many other parts of the world,” Pompeo told The Daily Signal, adding, “So no one in the Trump administration believes that we have completely defeated al-Qaeda, or radical Islamic terrorism more broadly.”
Today, about 14,500 US troops remain deployed to Afghanistan, providing air support and other types of assistance to Afghan forces. The US forces are part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, which comprises about 20,000 foreign soldiers.