By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) It took longer than he would have liked, but President Donald Trump is making good on another campaign pledge: To end the longest-running U.S. war in American history.
American and Taliban negotiators signed a deal on Saturday that reportedly will also pave the way for various Afghan factions to come together to end nearly two decades of fighting.
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and top Taliban leaders gathered at a hotel in Doha, Qatar, to sign the agreement, which will lead to the beginning of a total U.S. troupe withdrawal over the course of 14 months in exchange for a promise that Taliban leaders will work with others to forge a political deal to govern the country and prevent it from becoming a terrorist haven.
Reports said that Pompeo did not clap with the others “when Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar delivered a short speech pledging to honor it,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
The paper added:
As the agreement was signed by the Taliban leader and Mr. Khalilzad, members of the Taliban delegation cheered, shouting â€œAllahu akbarâ€â€”â€God is Greatâ€â€”as diplomats from around the world looked on.
The ceremony marked the first time an American cabinet official has met with Taliban leaders who have overseen an insurgency that has killed 2,400 U.S. service members and more than 90,000 Afghans since 2001. The militant group ruled Afghanistan until 2001, when the U.S. launched an invasion to topple the government and uproot Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda followers who lived there while planning the Sept. 11 attacks.
While the deal will begin the process of withdrawing American forces from the war-torn country, it also calls for a more challenging measure — that talks begin between Taliban and various other factions designed to form a cohesive government.
Some worry those talks could fall apart before they really even begin.
In practice, however, the deal will see the quick reduction of American troops from about 13,000 now to 8,600, or the level when President Trump took office in January 2017:
Once the U.S. reaches that level, expected to happen over the next 135 days, a full U.S. troop withdrawal by June 2021 would be dependent on several conditions: whether they keep their pledge to crack down on insurgents trying to use the country to plan attacks against the U.S. and its allies; if they agree to a permanent cease fire; and if they secure a political power-sharing deal with the Afghan government. — WSJ
As for Pompeo, neither he nor the president are under any illusions that the road ahead will be easy.
â€œThis agreement will mean nothingâ€”and todayâ€™s good feelings will not lastâ€”if we donâ€™t take concrete action on commitments stated and promises made,” he said.
Saad Mohseni, who returned to Afghanistan in 2001 to launch the countryâ€™s most successful private media company, echoed that sentiment and sounded a huge note of caution designed to temper expectations.
â€œEveryone has gone to Doha for the pomp and ceremony as if this is a victory lap, and thatâ€™s just not the case,â€ he said, the WSJ reported. â€œThis is the beginning of the very beginning, with major challenges ahead.â€
For his part, President Trump remained optimistic.
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â€œIf the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home,â€ he said in a statement. â€œUltimately it will be up to the people of Afghanistan to work out their future.â€
At one point early in the Obama administration, the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan surged to more than 100,000.
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