US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, in Kabul on Saturday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, announced a joint agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, stating that a full withdrawal of all US troops will be completed within 14 months, with the current 13,000 US troops being reduced to 8,600 within 135 days. This plan is contingent on the Taliban fulfilling its commitments under the US-Taliban agreement, which was also signed on Saturday in Doha, Qatar.
Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and other Afghan leaders and foreign diplomats were in attendance.
President Ghani made opening remarks, included a statement that existing agreements with the US and NATO will remain in effect. He said NATO and US partners have spared neither blood nor treasure to attain the goals of the partnership. "We ask you to thank the veterans, especially the gold star families, for their selfless service," he said, referring to families of US troops who have been killed while serving. He also mentioned the immense human cost of the war for Afghans: "Our sacrifice has been immense, both in the martyrdom of the ANDSF and our civilians. Children, youth in their prime, and men and women of all ages and walks of life had their lives taken away by senseless acts of terror and violence in public spaces."
Defense Secretary Esper said: "We call on the Taliban to abide by their commitments mentioned in the agreement."
Read joint Afghan-US statement here.
Concerning non-US NATO and allied troops, the agreement calls for coalition forces to be reduced "proportionally...over an equivalent period," and this is also "subject to the Taliban’s fulfillment of its commitments under the US -Taliban agreement."
Titled the "Joint Declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan," this "comprehensive and sustainable peace agreement" contains four parts, which are (1) the guarantee that terrorist groups will be prevented from using Afghanistan to launch attacks on the US and its allies, (2) a timeline for the withdrawal of all US and coalition forces from Afghanistan, (3) a political settlement resulting from intra-Afghan talks, and (4) a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
The agreement states that the US and Afghan authorities have "consulted extensively" about US and coalition forces levels and have determined that--following the US-Taliban agreement--"the current levels of military forces are no longer necessary to achieve security objectives." It goes on to say that "since 2014, Afghan security forces have been in the lead for providing security and have increased their effectiveness."
The statement reaffirms the US commitment of continued support to Afghanistan's security forces in the fight against terrorist groups and other threats, and pledges to continue military operations against terrorist groups, with the permission of the Afghan government.
The agreement also reaffirms funding on a yearly basis to train, equip, advise and sustain the Afghan security forces.
And, in order "to create the conditions for reaching a political settlement and achieving a permanent, sustainable ceasefire," provisions are made for a discussion about the exchange of prisoners.
The agreement also states that the Afghan government will engage diplomatically with members of the UN Security Council to remove members of the Taliban from the sanctions list, no later than May 29, 2020, “and in any case no later than 30 days after finalizing a framework agreement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”
According to the agreement, the US and the Afghan governments are committed to continuing "positive relations," including economic cooperation for reconstruction.
It also says that the United States will refrain from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Afghanistan or intervening in its domestic affairs.