(Source: Reuters / Rupam Jain, Charlotte Greenfield) – Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond May deadline – NATO sources
International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, four senior NATO officials said, a move that could escalate tensions with the Taliban demanding full withdrawal.
“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters.
“Conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “And with the new U.S. administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”
The administration of then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees.
Trump hailed the accord – which did not include the Afghan government – as the end of two decades of war. He reduced U.S. troops to 2,500 by this month, the fewest since 2001.
Plans on what will happen after April are now being considered and likely to be a top issue at a key NATO meeting in February, the NATO sources said. (…)
The Taliban have become increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the possibility that Washington might change aspects of the agreement and keep troops in the country beyond May, two Taliban sources told Reuters.
“We conveyed our apprehensions, but they assured us of honouring and acting on the Doha accord. What’s going on, on the ground in Afghanistan, is showing something else. And that’s why we decided to send our delegations to take our allies into confidence,” said a Taliban leader in Doha.
A Taliban delegation this week visited Iran and Russia, and the leader said they were contacting China. (…)
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