Pentagon briefed on US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan: Report

Pentagon briefed on US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan: Report

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon has been briefed on plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan but no orders have been given to begin such operations, officials said Monday.

The acknowledgment came as news reports cited progress in talks between the U.S. and Taliban at reaching a peaceful conclusion to the war in Afghanistan.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Pentagon reporters that there have been “encouraging conversations going on with the Taliban” and that his meetings this week are “making sure we stay in tight coordination with our coalition partners” on all developments.

Shanahan said he has been briefed on all scenarios for Afghanistan. Asked if he had been tasked to prepare for a full withdrawal he told reporters Monday, “I have not.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who met Shanahan Monday at the Pentagon, agreed on the positive outlook.

“We welcome the talks with Taliban,” he said. “We are encouraged in what we see now.”

On Monday, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that negotiators for the U.S. and the Taliban meeting in Qatar reached “agreements in principle” on key points for a peace plan to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan, according to multiple news reports.

The Afghan government did not participate in the six days of talks.

Khalilzad said under the deal, US forces would leave Afghanistan once a cease-fire is in place and the Taliban has started talks with the Afghan government.

In his statement released by the U.S. Embassy, Khalilzad said, “We made progress on vital issues in our discussions and agreed to agreements in principle on a couple of very important issues,” Khalilzad said in a statement released by the U.S. embassy in Kabul. “There is a lot more work to be done before we can say we have succeeded in our efforts but I believe for the first time I can say that we have made significant progress.”

Shanahan said he concurred with Khalilzad’s assessment.

“The takeaway right now is encouraging and we’ll let Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo and the ambassador be the spokespersons for that,” Shanahan said.

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