The US military will pull its troops from five bases in Afghanistan if the Taliban honour their end of a proposed deal, the US envoy leading negotiations between the two foes said Monday.
“We have agreed that if the conditions proceed according to the agreement, we will leave within 135 days five bases in which we are present now,” Zalmay Khalilzad told Tolo News, according to an excerpt of an interview the TV station published on Twitter.
The Afghan-born US diplomat, who has completed nine rounds of talks with Taliban representatives, was speaking in Dari. Tolo said the full interview would be broadcast later Monday.
Khalilzad on Monday showed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani the draft of the agreement between the US and the Taliban.
He is meeting Afghan leaders in Kabul this week to build a consensus before the deal is signed.
The agreement is expected to include a staggered withdrawal of US forces from their longest ever war in exchange for a Taliban commitment that they will not allow Afghanistan to be used by militants to plot attacks on the US and its allies.
Ghani’s government has been shut out of the talks as the militants refuse to recognise it, dismissing it as a US puppet.
But as part of the deal, the Taliban are expected to make a commitment to open power-sharing talks with the US-backed government and work towards a ceasefire.
Ghani will consider the draft and share his views on it with Khalilzad within two days, sources with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters.
Khalilzad said on the weekend final agreement was close.
“We are at the threshold of an agreement that will reduce violence and open the door for Afghans to sit together to negotiate an honourable and sustainable peace and a unified, sovereign Afghanistan that does not threaten the United States, its allies, or any other country,” he said in a Twitter post.
The US has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.
The United States invaded in 2001 and ousted its Taliban leaders after they refused to hand over members of the al Qaeda militant group behind the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
US President Donald Trump has long called for an end to US involvement in Afghanistan, writing on Twitter seven years ago that the war was “a complete waste” and six years ago that “we should leave Afghanistan immediately”.
Since becoming president in January 2017, he has repeatedly said he could end the Afghanistan war quickly if he didn’t mind killing millions of people, a claim he repeated in the interview with Fox News radio.
But there are concerns among Afghan officials and US national security aides about a US withdrawal, with fears Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and allow international militants, including Islamic State, to find a refuge.