United States President Donald Trump says American troops in Afghanistan will return home if his administration's talks with the Taliban militant group lead to an "agreement".
"For the first time they're talking about settling, they're talking about making an agreement, and we bring our people back home if that happens," Trump said in remarks in the Oval Office on Thursday.
"We'll see what happens. But they're in very serious negotiations for the first time. There's a reason for that. So I think we're doing so well on a foreign policy basis."
Washington and the Taliban terrorist group ended six days of negotiations in Doha on Saturday, with Kabul saying the US had assured Afghan officials that the focus of the talks was finding a way to facilitate peace and ensure foreign troop withdrawal.
Taliban sources speaking to Reuters claimed that the two sides agreed on a draft peace agreement, setting out the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan within 18 months, a timetable that was later denied by a US State Department spokesperson.
Speaking about the negotiations, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid stressed the importance of foreign troop withdrawal for future talks.
"Until the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is agreed upon, progress in other issues is impossible,” said Mujahid.
US peace envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, however, revealed on Monday that American and Taliban officials had agreed to a peace deal framework that could lead to a full US troop pullout in return for a ceasefire and Taliban talks with the Afghan government.
Meanwhile, a senior US government official told Reuters the talks had made “significant progress” regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops but more talks were required for a ceasefire agreement and timetable.
Speaking to the CNN on Thursday, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker expressed concern that the US has engaged in talks with the Taliban without the involvement of the Kabul government, describing it as a "dangerous concession" to the militant group.
"If this is a course we're going to continue on, this is very much is a surrender negotiation," Crocker said.
According to a report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published October last year, the Afghan government only controls 55 percent of the country's territory, while anti-government militants govern 12 percent.
About a third of the country is contested, fully controlled by neither the government nor militants.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said last week that 45,000 members of the country’s security forces had been killed since he took office in 2014.
The US has nearly 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission.
Despite the presence of US-led forces in Afghanistan to drive the Taliban from power, the terrorist group continues to influence large swaths of the country.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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