Code 134771
PublishDate: Tuesday, January 29, 2019 04:48

US-Taliban deal may be close, but

AVA- Even if a deal is reached, the battle-weary nation of 35 million people could be enveloped in a bloody civil war long after the Americans are gone.
Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad expressed optimism after talks in Qatar wrapped up over the weekend but said, "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed." Monday, he told The New York Times that negotiators agreed on a "framework" for a plan aimed at ending the conflict that has crippled Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion more than 17 years ago.
Khalilzad said the Taliban committed to preventing Afghanistan from becoming a platform for international terrorists. The United States would begin withdrawing troops in return for a cease-fire – and the Taliban conducting talks directly with the Kabul government, something the militant group has refused to do.
The 14,000 U.S. troops remaining in the South Asian country advise the Afghan military and conduct counterterrorism operations. President Donald Trump has frequently questioned the value of U.S. troop involvement.
Benjamin Hopkins, director of Asian Studies at George Washington University, said that the Taliban leadership is fully aware that Trump wants out – and that it cannot take control of the country so long as foreign troops remain.
"Recognizing this, the U.S. has been resistant to any deal withdrawing U.S. troops while the Taliban is still a militarily capable force," Hopkins said. "The thing that seems to have changed is President Trump’s desire to withdraw. ... Khalilzad is negotiating with that political reality in mind."
Vanda Felbab-Brown, author of "Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State-Building in Afghanistan," said the most likely outcome of a U.S. exit would be civil war.
If the Taliban agrees to negotiate with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the militants will demand to keep their military force or integrate it into the Afghan military, Felbab-Brown said. That would put the United States in the position of subsidizing Taliban fighters.
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