Aug 31. 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As negotiators work to nail down an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, misgivings have grown among some Trump administration officials and lawmakers that it will erode the United States’ ability to thwart attacks from there, U.S. officials said.
Their concerns collide with U.S. President Donald Trump’s impatience to secure a deal to draw down 14,000 troops and end America’s longest war, allowing him to claim a foreign policy victory as he campaigns for re-election in 2020.
On Thursday, Trump appeared to reflect some of his aides’ caution, telling Fox News Radio that U.S. troops would initially be reduced https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-trump/trump-u-s-will-maintain-presence-in-afghanistan-even-if-deal-reached-with-taliban-idUSKCN1VJ1R8 to 8,600, and “then we make a determination from there as to what happens.”
Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born U.S. diplomat, has led nine rounds of talks with Taliban leaders on ending a conflict triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States that were hatched by al Qaeda from what was then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
In return for the U.S. drawdown, the Taliban would renounce ties with al Qaeda and guarantee Afghanistan would not be used to plot operations against the United States or its allies. They also would open talks on a political settlement with the Afghan government, opposition parties and civil society.
U.S. officials say a U.S. withdrawal would be “conditions-based” and would stop if the Taliban reneged on the agreement.
However, some U.S. officials, commanders and lawmakers neither trust the Taliban and its elite operations arm, the Haqqani network, to break with al Qaeda nor believe they can keep their ally from plotting attacks, U.S. officials and regional experts said.