The US begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan

The US has begun withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as part of an agreement with the Taliban that aims to bring stability to the region.

The US has agreed to reduce its troops from about 12,000 to 8,600 within 135 days of the agreement being signed.

The withdrawal of troops was a condition of the landmark peace deal agreed on 29 February between the US and the Taliban.

The Afghan government has not engaged in the negotiation, but the Taliban are expected to hold negotiations. 

Originally, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he would not abide by an agreement to free Taliban hostages as a precondition for direct talks with the militant group.

Yet reports say the president, who was inaugurated Monday for a second term, will issue a decree this week to free at least 1,000 Taliban prisoners.

Last week the peace deal seemed shaky after the US launched an airstrike in response to Taliban fighters targeting Afghan forces in the province of Helmand.

The Taliban called for de-escalation and the first step of the American withdrawal was declared on Monday by Col Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan.

Afghan Taliban militants and villagers attend a gathering as they celebrate the peace deal in Afghanistan, in Alingar district of Laghman Province on March 2, 2020

Despite the withdrawal of troops, the US maintains “all the military means and authority to achieve our goals” in Afghanistan, Col Leggett said in a statement. 

Within 14 months, the US and its NATO allies agreed to withdraw all forces if the insurgents honored the agreement.

According to the agreement, the insurgents decided to refrain from attacks and not allow Al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas that they govern.

Weeks after the September 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda in New York, and then based in Afghanistan, the US invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban have been ousted from power but has become an insurgency group operating in over two-thirds of the world by 2018.

During the war, more than 2,400 US troops were killed.

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani speaks during his inauguration as president, in Kabul, Afghanistan

Two separate swearing-in ceremonies were held Monday after last year’s contested elections for two different politicians.

Afghanistan’s election commission says incumbent Mr. Ghani won the September vote narrowly, but Abdullah Abdullah alleges that the result is fake.

Experts warned that the current political competition would “seriously affect the role of the government in the forthcoming intra-Afghan talks,” due to start on Tuesday.

In an apparent show of support for Mr. Ghani’s presidency, the Trump administration said it rejected “action to set up a parallel government”

“Prioritizing an inclusive government and stable Afghanistan is vital for the country’s future and for the cause of peace in particular,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Monday.

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