United States and Taliban sign Afghanistan peace deal

Washington will withdraw all troops from country within 14 months if Taliban upholds commitments

The United States signed a historic deal with Taliban insurgents on Saturday that could see a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan and an end to the 18-year-war.

While the agreement paves the way for the United States to gradually pull out of its longest war, many expect that talks to come between the multiple Afghan sides will be far more complicated.

The deal was signed in the Qatari capital Doha by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo was on hand to witness the ceremony.

The United States and Nato would withdraw all troops in Afghanistan within 14 months if the Taliban upheld its commitments, according to a joint statement released by the US and Afghan governments on Saturday.

The United States would initially reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days of the US-Taliban agreement.

US defence secretary Mark Esper travelled to Kabul on a visit that officials and experts said was aimed at reassuring the Afghan government about the United States’ commitment to the country.

For US president Donald Trump, the deal represents a chance to make good on his promise to bring US troops home. But security experts have also called it a foreign policy gamble that would give the Taliban international legitimacy.

“Today is a monumental day for Afghanistan,” the US Embassy in Kabul said on Twitter. “It is about making peace and crafting a common brighter future. We stand with Afghanistan.”

Hours before the deal, the Taliban ordered all its fighters in Afghanistan “to refrain from any kind of attack . . . for the happiness of the nation.”

“The biggest thing is that we hope the US remain committed to their promises during the negotiation and peace deal,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist group.

He said it was “irritating and provocative” that foreign military aircraft continued to fly over Taliban territory, but militia fighters were following the order to stand-down.

For millions of Afghans, the deal represents some hope for an end to years of bloodshed.

“Peace is extremely simple, and my country deserves it. Today is the day when maybe we will see a positive change,” said Javed Hassan (38), a school teacher living on the outskirts of Afghan capital, Kabul.

His children were killed in a bomb blast carried out by the Taliban in 2018, and since then, he has been writing letters to world leaders urging them to end the Afghan war. –Reuters