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US and Taliban reach ‘agreement in principle', says US special envoy

US and Taliban representatives have reached an ‘agreement in principle’ regarding the conditions for a drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said on 2 September, emphasising that final approval of the deal rests with US President Donald Trump.

Speaking to Afghan media outlet TOLOnews Khalilzad said that the draft agreement, which comes after nine rounds of negotiations, states that the United States will withdraw 5,000 troops from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days as long as the Taliban meets the conditions set out in the deal.

One of the conditions is that the Taliban ensures that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-Khorasan seeking to attack the US and its allies.

The provinces of Kabul and Parwan are expected to see a reduction in violence as part of the agreement, said Khalilzad, emphasising that a return by force of an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan – the term used for the Taliban’s governance system – is “not acceptable”.

It is believed that a withdrawal of the remaining US forces from Afghanistan will depend on conditions such as a ceasefire and the start of peace negotiations between the Afghan government in Kabul and the Taliban.

The Taliban have so far refused to enter direct talks with the Kabul administration, which they have repeatedly referred to as a “puppet” government. Washington had agreed to hold talks with the Taliban, but only as a springboard for wider and more formal Taliban discussions with Kabul.

Two of the Mobile Strike Force Vehicles used by Afghan forces to repel a Taliban attack on Kunduz City on 31 August. (Bashkir Khan Safi/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan forces gather at a street in Kunduz on August 31 as they co-ordinate efforts to repel a Taliban assault on the northern Afghan city. (Bashkir Khan Safi/AFP/Getty Images)

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