The US government has said “no decisions” have been made regarding the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by a May 1 deadline it has negotiated with the Taliban, adding “all options are on the table.”
“We have not made any decisions about our force posture in Afghanistan after May 1,” the US State Department said in a statement on Sunday.
The comments came after reports emerged that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had made a new push for a United Nations-led peace effort that included a “warning” to the Afghan government that the US military was considering exiting Afghanistan by the set deadline.
Taliban Endorses Trump Re-Election Campaign, Hopes for Total US Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan https://t.co/nlOGt7bFRa— #TuckFrump (@realTuckFrumper) October 10, 2020
In a letter to President Ashraf Ghani, published by TOLO News and reported by the New York Times, Blinken said that President Joe Biden had lost faith in faltering negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.
Negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in September last year as part of a February 2020 agreement between the militants and the administration of former US president Donald Trump in the Qatari capital, Doha.
Under that deal, all foreign troops were expected to leave Afghan soil within 14 months in exchange for a series of commitments by the Taliban, including a reduction in violence.
The Biden administration has said the Taliban have not lived up to their commitments to reduce violence and to cut ties with terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Daesh.
Violence has escalated in Afghanistan over the past year, with persistent Taliban attacks on government forces and a string of targeted assassination of officials, civil servants and journalists.
Blinken said in the letter that the US State Department, along with the UN, aimed to launch high-level talks “to move matters more fundamentally and quickly toward a settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire” in Afghanistan.
Accordingly, the US will ask Turkey to host the meeting of “both sides in the coming weeks to finalize a peace agreement.” Representatives from Russia, Pakistan, Iran, India and others will also be invited to “discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan.”
The letter said a 90-day violence reduction proposal was “intended to prevent a spring offensive by the Taliban.”
House Democrats, working with Liz Cheney, restrict Trump's planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Germany https://t.co/WZEjALgJHH— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 2, 2020
Urging President Ghani to “understand the urgency of my tone,” Blinken claimed he was worried that a hasty military exit from Afghanistan would worsen the security situation in the country and cause the Taliban to make “rapid territorial gains.”
The United States currently has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
President Ghani has rejected a plan to forge an interim government in Afghanistan. As part of the deal with the US, the Taliban agreed last year to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with Kabul.
The Afghan president said on Saturday that he was opposed to any transfer of power except through democratic elections, which he said were the only legitimate way to gain political power.
The US overthrew the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001. However, the occupation forces have remained bogged down there and violence continues to take a heavy toll on the country.
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