US President Donald Trump to host once called most dangerous terrorists on surface of earth, the Afghan Taliban
*WASHINGTON DC: *United States President Donald Trump on Saturday hailed the signing of a historic deal with the Taliban that Washington hopes will mark the beginning of the end of its longest war, and said he would meet Taliban leaders “in the not so distant future.”
The US leader said he believed the Taliban were ready for peace but warned that should the deal fail to take hold, “we’ll go back.”
He said that the first withdrawals of US troops from Afghanistan are starting “immediately,” following the successful signing of a deal with the Taliban.
Asked when the drawdown would begin under the accord, Trump told journalists: “Like today, OK? Today. They’ll start immediately.”
The deal signed Saturday in Doha will see US troops and the smaller numbers of foreign allies pulling out of Afghanistan within 14 months, as long as the Taliban stick to commitments to negotiate with the Western-backed government in Kabul and repel international jihadist groups.
The US, which currently has between 12,000 and 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, will draw that number down to 8,600 within 135 days of the signing.
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, in a conference room in a luxury hotel in the Qatari capital.
The pair then shook hands, as people in the room shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
The Taliban swept to power in 1996 with a hardline interpretation of Islamic sharia law, banning women from working, closing girls’ schools, and forbidding music and other entertainment.
Since the US-led invasion that ousted them after the September 11, 2001 attacks, America has spent more than $1 trillion on fighting and rebuilding in the country. About 2,400 US soldiers have been killed, along with unknown tens of thousands of Afghan troops, Taliban fighters and Afghan civilians.
The Doha accord was drafted over a tempestuous year of dialogue marked by the abrupt cancellation of the effort by Trump in September.
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 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. - APP / AFP