US President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday: “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!”
Hours after Trump’s announcement, his national security adviser Robert O’Brien said Washington would reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early next year.
On Thursday, AFP reported that NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg insisted that members will decide together on when to leave Afghanistan, in response to President Trump's tweet.
But is the US troops pullout by Christmas in accordance with the deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in Doha on February 29?
According to the US-Taliban peace agreement, the United States committed to withdraw from Afghanistan all military forces of the United States, its allies, and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisers, and supporting services personnel within fourteen (14) months following the announcement of the agreement.
Trump’s statement on the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan comes two days after the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said that a complete drawdown from Afghanistan will be based on the implementation of the US-Taliban peace deal.
The agreement states that the US will fully withdraw its forces over the next 14 months and that the current force of about 13,000 troops will be reduced to 8,600 within 135 days. Non-US NATO and other coalition forces will also be reduced proportionally over that time.
The conditions of the US-Taliban agreement is made up of four key parts:
(1) Guarantees and enforcement mechanisms that will prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies.
(2) Guarantees, enforcement mechanisms, and the announcement of a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan.
(3) After the announcement of guarantees for a complete withdrawal of foreign forces and timeline in the presence of international witnesses, and guarantees and the announcement in the presence of international witnesses that Afghan soil will not be used against the security of the United States and its allies, the Taliban will start intra-Afghan negotiations with Afghan sides on March 10, 2020.
(4) A permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be an item on the agenda of the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations. The participants of intra-Afghan negotiations will discuss the date and details of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, including joint implementation mechanisms, which will be announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.
The Taliban issued a statement welcoming Trump’s tweet.
“(The Taliban) welcomes these remarks and considers it a positive step for the implementation of the agreement between (the Taliban) and the US,” the Taliban’s statement said.
The statement also said that the Taliban is committed to the contents of the agreement and hopes for good and positive relations with all countries, including the US, in the future.
“Whether the US stays there or not, this deadly war will continue for years, therefore the peace negotiators should take advantage of the opportunity and agree on a political settlement,” said Tariq Farhadi, former adviser to the president.
In an interview with TOLOnews' Lotfullah Najafizada, US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said that he expects the Afghan peace process to be concluded in months, not years.
Khalilzad also said that the current scale of violence in Afghanistan is not acceptable, and that it is strange how the Taliban has stopped attacks on foreigners but continues attacking Afghans.
“The Taliban attacks are not taking place against the foreign forces...we are happy with that, but, on the other side, the war continues against Afghans,” said Khalilzad.
Meanwhile, Abdullah Abdullah, the head of High Council of National Reconciliation, in India said that some of the US forces will withdraw until November.
“There is no doubt that (by) November, part of that withdrawal will be completed, that’s what we are aware of...and that’s what the US military on the ground was making preparations (for) and some numbers would have been left beyond that, so that is as far as I can say at this moment,” said Abdullah.
The peace negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has so far not made any comment.
Based on Trump’s tweets, the US forces will pull out from Afghanistan 4 months prior to the US-Taliban agreement.