US, Taliban sign peace treaty; all US forces to leave in 14...

US, Taliban sign peace treaty; all US forces to leave in 14 months

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Kabul Saturday along with UN and US officials to discuss the Afghan peace process. (DoD photo)

WASHINGTON — The U.S and the Taliban today signed a treaty to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan, which puts the U.S to withdraw all forces from that nation within 14 months.

Signed in Doha, Qatar, the drawdown process will begin with the U.S. reducing its troop levels to 8,600 in the first 135 days and pulling its forces from five bases. The Afghan government will release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security forces held by the Taliban.

The U.S. intends, along with members of the United Nations Security Council, to “remove members of the Taliban from the sanctions list with the aim of achieving this objective by May 29, 2020” — and Washington, in particular, aims to remove the group from U.S. sanctions by Aug 27, 2020. The U.S. has pledged to seek the Security Council’s recognition and endorsement of the plan.

The agreement covers only actions between the US, NATO troops and the Taliban. The Afghan government will begin negotiations with the Taliban to map out a political settlement that would establish the role the Taliban would play in a future Afghanistan. These negotiations are expected to start next month. One of the first tasks in these intra-Afghan talks is to create an permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.

Shortly after the agreement was signed in Doha, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg signed a joint declaration in Kabul with the Afghan government — represented by President Ashraf Ghani — that commits the Afghans to these up-coming negotiations with the Taliban. It also provides Afghanistan with security guarantees as this process unfolds.

U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in October 2001 to seek Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, and his terror group, who hijacked and crashed for U.S. commercial airplanes in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, five years lonat the time, was dethroned with the invasion of a U.S.-led military coalition.

Almost 800,000 U.S. troops served in Afghanistan. More than 20,000 were wounded and more than 2,400 were killed.

The agreement requires the Taliban to pledge not to support any terrorist group seeking safe haven in Afghanistan. There are at least a dozen terrorist groups already in the country, include a branch of ISIS.

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