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US-Taliban sign peace deal – US troops to exit Afghanistan in 14 months

Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, Task Force Anchor, encounter an improvised explosive device (IED) while convoying through the Helmand Province, Nov., 20 2012. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Drew Verbis/Released)
February 29, 2020

The U.S. and the Taliban signed a historic peace deal on Saturday, aiming to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan.

The agreement stipulates a U.S. force drawdown to 8,600 from 13,000 within four months, with the remainder to withdraw completely in 14 months, the Associated Press reported. A complete withdrawal is dependent on the Taliban’s ability to fulfill their side of the commitment to prevent terrorism.

The agreement was signed by U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Qatar with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in attendance.

Pompeo said the U.S. is “seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation.”

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He called the agreement a “true test of this effort.”

“We will closely watch the Taliban’s compliance with their commitments and calibrate the pace of our withdrawal to their actions. This is how we will ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a base for international terrorists,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said that the Afghan people have “rejoiced” and danced in the street, and are beginning to trade and move freely in the country, but he warned that effort must be continued to make peace work.

“Furthering the cause of peace will require serious work and sacrifice by all sides – the United States, the coalition, the Taliban, the Afghan Government, other Afghan leaders, and the Afghan people themselves – to maintain the momentum needed to reach a comprehensive, inclusive, and durable peace,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the Taliban must take a series of steps, including cutting ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, continue to fight ISIS, pursue communications with the Afghan government and officials, and embrace a more inclusive future.

“Victory for Afghans will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper. Victory for the United States will only be achieved when Americans and our allies no longer have to fear a terrorist threat from Afghanistan, and we will do whatever it takes to protect our people,” Pompeo said.