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US, Taliban sign historic deal on Afghanistan’s future

US, Taliban sign historic deal on Afghanistan’s future
Zalmay Khalilzad (L) and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar shake hands after signing a peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, Saturday (AP)
DOHA, FEB 29 (AFP) | Publish Date: 2/29/2020 12:18:34 PM IST

The United States signed a landmark deal with the Taliban on Saturday, laying out a timetable for a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months as it seeks an exit from its longest-ever war.

The agreement is expected to lead to a dialogue between the Taliban and the Kabul government that, if successful, could ultimately see an end to the grinding 18-year conflict.

Taliban fighter-turned-dealmaker Mullah Baradar signed the accord alongside Washington’s chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, at a gilded desk in a conference room in a luxury Doha hotel.

The pair then shook hands, as people in the room shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looked on as the two inked the deal, after urging the insurgents to “keep your promises to cut ties with Al-Qaeda”.

On the eve of the signing, President Donald Trump urged the Afghan people to embrace the chance for a new future. 

“If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home,” he said.

But the position of the Afghan government, which has been excluded from direct US-Taliban talks, remains unclear and the country is gripped by a fresh political crisis amid contested election results.

The Doha accord was drafted over a tempestuous year of dialogue marked by abrupt cancellation of the effort by Trump in September.

The signing comes after a week-long, partial truce that has mostly held across Afghanistan, aimed at building confidence between the warring parties and showing the Taliban can control their forces.

U.S. and its allies will withdraw all their forces from Afghanistan within 14 months if Taliban abide by the terms of the accord.

After an initial reduction of troops to 8,600 within 135 days of Saturday’s signing, the U.S. and its partners “will complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan” within 14 months.

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