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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.
It has been a deadly year for Green Berets, with every active-duty Special Forces Group losing a valued soldier in Afghanistan or Syria.
A total of 12 members of the Army special operations forces community have died in 2019, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command. All but one of those soldiers were killed in combat.
In Afghanistan, Army special operators account for 10 of the 17 U.S. troops killed so far this year. Eight of the fallen were Green Berets. Of the other two soldiers, one was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group and the other was a Ranger.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Documents from the Pentagon show that "far more taxpayer funds" were spent by the U.S. military on overnight stays at a Trump resort in Scotland than previously known, two Democratic lawmakers said on Wednesday, as they demanded more evidence from the Defense Department as part of their investigation.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the heads of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee and one of it subcommittees said that while initial reports indicated that only one U.S. military crew had stayed at President Donald Trump's Turnberry resort southeast of Glasgow, the Pentagon had now turned over data indicating "more than three dozen separate stays" since Trump moved into the White House.
QUANTICO, Va. -- Marines who spend much of their day lifting hefty ammunition or moving pallets full of gear could soon get a helping hand.
The Marine Corps is close to signing a deal to test an exoskeleton prototype that can help a single person move as much as several leathernecks combined.
The Air Force is working on a ‘flying car’ to replace the V-22 Osprey — and it could take flight sooner than you think
'Agility Prime' sounds like a revolutionary new video streaming service, or a parkour-themed workout regimen, or Transformers-inspired niche porno venture.
But no, it's the name of the Air Force's nascent effort to replace the V-22 Osprey with a militarized flying car — and it's set to take off sooner than you think.
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