Abdullah Insists on Conditions-based US Withdrawal

The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan should be dependent on the progress in the peace efforts with the Taliban, said Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, as US President Donald Trump announced a reduction in American troops presence in Afghanistan in the upcoming months.

Trump last week ordered the US Defense Department to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by mid-January.

“This is the decision by the US administration and we respect it,” Abdullah said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Had it been like, our preference would have been that with the conditions improving then this should have taken place. But the promise of the US current administration has been that the rest of the troops will stay there, and that decision will be based on conditions and the future administration will decide about it.”

Abdullah who visited Turkey last week and held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the talks and the support from the United States for the continuation of the talks will continue.

“What form and what shape it will take, that remains to be seen but they (the United States) will certainly push for peaceful settlement. There is a sort of bi-partisan understanding in the United States, amongst the lawmakers, amongst the politicians, that the opportunity which is there, that the Afghans are talking, (that) the Afghan government, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is talking to the Taliban,” Abdullah said.

The peace negotiations in Doha have been faced with deadlock over disagreements on the procedural rules of the talks. Earlier this week, peace negotiator Fawzia Koofi said there are some indications of progress in the talks in the coming days.

Abdullah meanwhile called the report on Australian forces’ mistreatment in Afghanistan as shocking.

“Unfortunately, incidents as such have happened in the past and troops were involved but the fact the Australian government has come clear about it, without any sort of doubt, and they have apologized for it. They have pursued it. There has been a thorough investigation of the matter and there is the promise (on), the prospect of prosecution, for those who have committed these heinous crimes. That we will count, and hopefully this will help preventing these sort of crimes from taking place,” he said.