Trump Wants US Troops Out of Afghanistan by Christmas

Washington, Oct 8 (AFP/APP): President Donald Trump has said he wants all US troops to leave Afghanistan by Christmas, speeding up the timeline for ending America’s longest war.

“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump wrote on Twitter late Wednesday.

The Taliban welcomed the announcement as a “positive step” in implementing their February 29 agreement with the US that would see all foreign forces leave Afghanistan by May 2021. In return, the Taliban promised not to allow Afghanistan to be used by trans-national extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda — the original reason for the 2001 US invasion.

In a statement, the Taliban said they are “committed to the agreement, and want positive relations in the future with all countries, including the United States.”

After intense US cajoling, the Afghan government and the Taliban last month opened peace talks in Doha, although negotiations have got off to a slow start. Trump’s promise comes less than a month before US elections in which the president, trailing in polls, has sought to show he is making good on his promise to close out America’s “endless wars.”

After 19 years of US military operations his stance enjoys broad support at home including from his Democratic rival Joe Biden, who during his time as Vice-President had pushed to curtail US involvement in Afghanistan.

Asked last month whether he backed Trump’s plans to withdraw troops from both Afghanistan and Iraq, Biden said: “Yes, I do. As long as he has a plan to figure out how he’s going to deal with ISIS”, the ultra-violent movement that has been active in both countries.

Stalemate in talks

The United States first intervened in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks and dislodged the Taliban regime, which had welcomed Al-Qaeda. But in the years since the resurgent militants have launched a fresh battle to topple the US-backed government in Kabul, with civilians bearing the brunt of spiraling violence since NATO combat troops withdrew in 2014.

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