Taliban welcomes partial US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Of course Trump should withdraw troops from Syria — and everywhere else for that matter

The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat mission in 2014, but American and allied troops remain, conducting strikes on the Islamic State group and the Taliban and working to train and build the Afghan military.

The Taliban welcomed news of the US plan to withdraw half its troops in Afghanistan by the summer, as Afghan generals warned Friday it would be a blow to the morale of the country's beleaguered security forces, who come under daily attacks from the insurgent fighters.

The minister said Pakistan has released some Taliban to help facilitate the talks.

But there was no sign the Taliban were ready to move on the two major sticking points: Direct talks with the Afghan government and a cease fire while the two sides negotiate Khalilzad's so-called "roadmap for the future of Afghanistan".

A recent USA military report said Taliban control over Afghanistan has increased in recent months, and the government now controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country's districts - the lowest level recorded since it began tracking the data in 2015. Officials now worry that any move to withdraw USA troops this year could dampen those prospects and simply encourage the Taliban to wait it out until they can take advantage of the gaps when the forces leave.

"The Taliban involvement in political process means greater say for Pakistan in Afghan affairs".

USA troops stormed into Afghanistan in November 2001 in an invasion triggered by the September 11 attacks.

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has met Taliban representatives during at least three separate rounds of direct talks in recent months as part of the effort to encourage negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul.

Khalilzad has tweeted that talks held in United Arab Emirates were "productive". Observers, however, have warned that the U.S. withdrawal could have a "devastating" impact on stability in Kabul and any such move would offer Taliban militants a psychological edge in the conflict and propaganda victory.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday told reporters in the central city of Multan that the decision is good for ongoing peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the U.S. "This will also force the Afghan government to think about peace as a short-term prospect instead of something that could be delayed for years".

President Donald Trump has long pushed to pull troops out of Afghanistan, considering the war a lost cause.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Several high ranking Afghan military officials said the morale of Afghanistan's under-trained and poorly equipped security forces is already at a dangerously low ebb. "Diplomacy gets harder when the White House fails to coordinate with other branches of government and close USA allies".

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