American and Afghan officials announced that the United States (US) and its NATO allies will withdraw their forces from Afghanistan within 14 months, if Taliban fulfill their obligations under an agreement signed in the Qatari capital, Doha, yesterday.
The announcement came in a US-Afghan joint statement issued in Kabul.
US President Donald Trump said it was a “long and arduous journey” in Afghanistan. “After all these years, it is time to bring our soldiers back home,” he added.
He added that US troops had been killing terrorists in Afghanistan “by the thousands” and now it was “time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban and it could be surrounding countries.”
“I really believe Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time,” Trump added. “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no-one’s ever seen.”
The US launched its war operations in Afghanistan a month after the September 11 attacks, by the Afghanistan-based al-Qaeda group.
More than 2,400 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, and about 12,000 American troops remain in the country.
US President Donald Trump has promised to put an end to this conflict.
How did US-Taliban talks begin?
Since 2011, Qatar has hosted Taliban leaders who have moved there to discuss peace in Afghanistan.
In 2013, a political office affiliated to Taliban was opened in Doha, and then closed the same year, amid disputes over raising the group’s flags.
Qatar also hosted a major conference that presented a road map for peace in Afghanistan. The event brought together officials from the Taliban and Afghan government.
In December 2018, Taliban leaders announced that they would meet US officials to try to find a “roadmap to peace”. But the hard-line Islamist group continued to refuse to hold official talks with the Afghan government, whom they dismissed as American “puppets”.
After nine rounds of talks between the US and Taliban in Qatar, the two sides reached an agreement.
Last September, Washington chief negotiator announced that the US would withdraw 5,400 soldiers from Afghanistan within 20 weeks as part of an “initial” agreement with Taliban militants.
Days later, Trump said the talks reached a dead end after the group killed a US soldier. But within weeks, the two sides resumed discussions behind the scenes.
A week ago, the Taliban agreed to “reduce violence”, although Afghan officials said at least 22 soldiers and 14 civilians were killed in Taliban attacks during that period.
Afghan War Background
The war began when the US launched air strikes a month after the September 11, 2011 attacks. The Taliban had refused to hand over the man behind those attacks, Osama bin Laden.
The US was joined by an international alliance and the Taliban that ruled Afghanistan was quickly overthrown.
However, the group turned into insurgent force and launched bloody attacks, destabilizing successive Afghan governments.
The international coalition ended its combat mission in 2014, staying only to train Afghan forces. But the US continued its own, scaled-back combat operation, including air strikes.
The Taliban has however continued to gain momentum and in 2018 the BBC found they were active across 70% of Afghanistan.
Nearly 3,500 members of the international coalition forces have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
The figures for Afghan civilians, militants and government forces are more difficult to quantify. In a February 2019 report, the UN said that more than 32,000 civilians had died.
The Watson Institute at Brown University said that 58,000 security personnel and 42,000 opposition combatants have been killed.