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Trump: Taliban could ‘possibly’ seize power after U.S. pullout

President Donald J. Trump, on Jan. 8, 2020, responds to missile strikes against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq by Iran. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the Taliban could “possibly” overrun the Western-backed government in Kabul after the United States withdraws from Afghanistan.

Trump was speaking to journalists at the White House on March 6, days after the United States signed a deal with the Taliban aimed at putting an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Asked whether an eventual U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan might lead to the Taliban overrunning the sitting government, the president said it’s “not supposed to happen that way but it possibly will.”

“Eventually, countries have to take care of themselves. We can’t be there for another 20 years,” Trump also said.

The U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in Doha on February 29 would allow allied forces to leave the country within 14 months in return for various security commitments from the Taliban and a pledge to hold talks with the Afghan government — which the militant group so far has refused to do.

But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned he was not committed to a key clause in the deal involving the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

The Taliban said it would not take part in intra-Afghan talks until that provision was met, and Pompeo urged both sides to move forward with prisoner releases.

U.S. officials have voiced frustration with renewed violence in Afghanistan, saying the Afghan parties to the conflict need to take advantage of the peace deal.

“Violence must be reduced immediately for the peace process to move forward,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on March 5. “Do not squander this opportunity.”

Pompeo urged Afghans not to care only on “the narrow interest that you happen to represent.”

“What we have urged all the parties to do is stop posturing. It’s time to move forward,” he added.

The United States plans to seek UN Security Council backing for the peace deal, according to the Associated Press.

A U.S. draft resolution, seen by the news agency, would welcome the February 28 announcement of the agreement and would encourage “the sustained support” of the UN and international partners for the efforts toward peace in Afghanistan.