US begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan

US troops withdrawal Afghanistan

KABUL: The US military said on Monday that it had begun its troop pullout according to the peace deal signed with the Taliban in Qatar.

“US Forces Afghanistan has begun its conditions-based reduction of forces to 8,600 over 135 days,” spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett said in a statement.

The current level is more than 12,000.

According to the agreement signed in Qatar, all foreign troops will withdraw from Afghanistan in 14 months, in return for various security commitments from the Taliban and a pledge to hold the talks with Kabul.

The intra-Afghan talks were due to begin on Tuesday but Ghani s government has not released any details of the negotiating team and it is unclear when they may start.

Abdullah said Monday that he would send a separate group to talk to the Taliban.

“One of the first priorities of our government would be to create political consensus, and appoint a negotiating team,” he said.

During Monday s speech, Ghani appeared to reach out to his opponents, saying: “Today is the day for unity. We have to think about the future.”

“I call on… (past) political rivals to lend me a hand and a shoulder to serve this country. Our mission is peace and ending the 40 years of war,” he added.

Violence has continued unabated, except for during a week-long partial truce ahead of the US-Taliban deal.

In the deadliest attack to hit Afghanistan in weeks, IS gunmen shot dead 32 people and wounded dozens of others at a political rally in Kabul on Friday.

The Taliban, who called the electoral process “a fake and foreign-run” affair, have also ramped up attacks on Afghan forces and civilians.

The insurgents  spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP the competing ceremonies showed that “nothing is more important to the slaves than their personal interests”.

Experts say the infighting is likely to cost the government, which is already under pressure after being shut out of the Doha negotiations for the US-Taliban deal.

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