Half of US troops to leave Afghanistan by April | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 08, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 08, 2019

PEACE TALKS IN MOSCOW

Half of US troops to leave Afghanistan by April

Say Taliban; Washington says no timeframe set

  • Trump describes recent peace talks with Taliban 'constructive'
  • Pakistan activists' arrests fuel tension with Afghanistan

 

A Taliban official said on Wednesday the United States had promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, but the US military said no timeframe had been set.

Abdul Salam Hanafi, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting in Moscow between the Taliban and other prominent Afghan figures, said American officials pledged the pullout will begin this month.

"The Americans told us that from the beginning of February to the end of April half of the troops from Afghanistan will be withdrawn," Hanafi told reporters.

But Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Rob Manning said the US military had received no orders to begin withdrawing, reported Aljazeera Online.

"Peace talks with the Taliban continue, but [the Defense Department] has not received a directive to change the force structure in Afghanistan," said Manning.

A US military spokeswoman in Kabul also denied an immediate troop withdrawal.

"If all parties do what is necessary to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a platform for terrorism, as conditions allow we are willing to look at changes in force presence," she told the AFP news agency.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, head of the Taliban delegation in Moscow, also contradicted Hanafi's earlier comments on an American withdrawal saying no date had yet been fixed.

US President Donald Trump repeated in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that he wants US troops to pull out from long-running wars, such as Afghanistan and Syria as soon as possible.

"Constructive" talks with the Taliban guerrillas have "accelerated," he said in an notably upbeat assessment.

Meanwhile, the arrest of a group of ethnic Pashtun activists at a rally in Pakistanthis week rekindled an angry row with neighbouring Afghanistan yesterday as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned Islamabad's treatment of the protesters, reported Reuters.

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