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The US has reached a potential peace deal with the Taliban
ABUL (Reuters) - The United States would withdraw almost 5,000 troops from Afghanistan and close five bases within 135 days under a draft peace accord agreed with the Taliban, the chief U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Monday.
The deal, reached after months of negotiations with representatives from the insurgent movement, must still be approved by U.S. President Donald Trump before it can be signed, Khalilzad said in an interview with Tolo News television.
"In principle, we have got there," he said. "The document is closed."
In exchange for the phased withdrawal, the Taliban would commit not to allow Afghanistan to be used by militant groups such as al Qaeda or Islamic State as a base for attacks on the United States and its allies.
The distance that must still be covered before peace is achieved was underlined, however, by a large explosion that rocked the Afghan capital, Kabul, even as Khalilzad's interview was being aired, shaking buildings several kilometers away.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-American diplomat, said the aim of the deal was to end the war and that it would lead to a reduction in violence, but there was no formal ceasefire agreement. It would be up to negotiations among Afghans themselves to agree a settlement, he said.
He declined to say how long the rest of the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan after the first stage of the withdrawal, although Taliban officials previously insisted that all foreign forces must leave.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been briefed on a draft of the accord and will look at details of the deal before giving an opinion, his spokesman said on Monday.
Khalilzad said "intra-Afghan" talks, which might be held in Norway, would aim to reach a broader political settlement and end the fighting between the Taliban and the Western-backed government in Kabul.
Details of any future negotiations remain unclear, with the Taliban so far refusing to deal directly with the government, which it considers an illegitimate "puppet" regime.
Ghani met Khalilzad and will "study and assess" details of the draft, spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters earlier on Monday. "But for us, a meaningful peace or a path to a meaningful peace is the end of violence and direct negotiation with the Taliban," he said.
Many Afghan government officials have resented the exclusion of the government from the U.S.-Talibantalks, an issue that was underlined when Ghani was not allowed to keep a text of the draft agreement after it was shown to him.
Several details of the agreement remain to be clarified, including the status to be accorded to the Taliban, which the draft recognizes under their preferred title as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Some Afghan officials object to that as they see it according the insurgents an equivalent status to the country's internationally recognized government.
At the same time, presidential elections, scheduled for Sept. 28 in which Ghani is seeking re-election to a second five-year term, were not covered in the agreement, Khalilzad said. The Taliban have consistently rejected the elections.
Khalilzad, who has completed nine rounds of talks with Taliban representatives, is scheduled to hold meetings with a number of Afghan leaders in Kabul this week to build a consensus before the deal is signed.
The peace talks have taken place against a backdrop of relentless violence, even before Monday's blast in Kabul, with the Taliban mounting two large-scale attacks on the major northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri at the weekend.
Afghan security forces pushed back Taliban fighters from both cities, but a suicide bomber detonated his explosives on Monday in Kunduz, killing at least six policemen and wounding 15, officials and the Talibansaid.
Trump has made little secret of his desire to bring the 14,000 U.S. troops home from Afghanistan, where American troops have been deployed since a U.S.-led campaign overthrew the Taliban in 2001.
But there are concerns among Afghan officials and U.S. national security aides about a U.S. withdrawal, with fears Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and allow international militants, including Islamic State, to find a refuge.
A Marine wanted for killing his mother's boyfriend reportedly escaped police by hiding inside an RV they'd spent hours searching before towing it to a parking lot, where he escaped under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't until more than two weeks later authorities finally caught up to Michael Brown at his mom's home, which was the scene of the crime.
Brown stuffed himself into a tight spot in his camper during an hours-long search of the vehicle on Nov. 10, according to NBC affiliate WSLS in Virginia. A day earlier, cops said Brown fatally shot his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Brown. The AWOL Marine remained on the lam until Nov. 27, where he was finally apprehended without incident.
No motive is yet known for last week's Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard shooting tragedy, which appears to have been a random act of violence in which the sailor who fatally shot two civilian workers and himself did not know them and did not plan his actions ahead of time, shipyard commander Capt. Greg Burton said in an "All Hands" message sent out Friday.
Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Fireman Gabriel Antonio Romero of San Antonio, an armed watch-stander on the attack submarine USS Columbia, shot three civilian workers Dec. 4 and then turned a gun on himself while the sub rested in dry dock 2 for a major overhaul, the Navy said.
"The investigation continues, but there is currently no known motive and no information to indicate the sailor knew any of the victims," Burton said.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at "restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.", state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea's Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
Since the Washington Post first published the "Afghanistan papers," I have been reminded of a scene from "Apocalypse Now Redux" in which Army Col. Walter Kurtz reads to the soldier assigned to kill him two Time magazine articles showing how the American people had been lied to about Vietnam by both the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.
In one of the articles, a British counterinsurgency expert tells Nixon that "things felt much better and smelled much better" during his visit to Vietnam.
"How do they smell to you, soldier?" Kurtz asks.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince, the controversial private security executive and prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, one of socialist leader Nicolas Maduro's closest and most outspoken allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.