WASHINGTON: No decision has been made about the future presence of the US troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has said, asserting that the Biden administration is committed to responsibly end the war in the strife-torn country with the diplomatic process.
The previous Trump administration had signed the peace deal with Taliban in February last in Doha. The accord drew up plans for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for security guarantees from the insurgent group.
As part of the deal, the US committed to withdraw its 12,000 troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. There are currently only 2,500 American troops left in the war-torn country.
“We obviously are still committed to ending this war, but we want to do it in a responsible way, and I don’t think it’s helpful to be drawn now into specific hypothetical questions about the troop numbers on a specific calendar basis,” John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Thursday.
“We are still committed to ending this war, and we obviously, the president has made it clear he wants to bring American troops home from Afghanistan, but we are going to do it in lockstep with the diplomatic process to try to find a negotiated settlement,” he said.
“If any decision of force levels in Afghanistan is going to be driven by our security requirements there, our security commitments there and driven by conditions, and I think we have been very clear about that. They will be conditions-based. We obviously want to see a responsible end to this war. We obviously want to see successful negotiated settlements to end it,” he said.
Responding to a question, Kirby said the Taliban are not meeting their commitments to reduce violence and to renounce their ties to al-Qaida, and they’re not meeting their commitments.
“As long as they are not meeting their commitments, it’s going to be difficult for anybody at that negotiating table to meet their commitments. In fact, it wouldn’t be the wise course,” he said.
The United States, Kirby said, is still involved in trying to get a negotiated settlement.
“The Taliban have not met their commitments. As you know, there is a looming deadline of early May that is before everybody in terms of wanting to have a solution here,” he said.
“But without them meeting their commitments to renounce the terrorism and to stop the violent attacks on the Afghan national security forces and by dint of that the Afghan people, it’s very hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement. But we’re still committed to that. There’s no question about that,” he said.
Defence secretary Lloyd Austin has been clear in testimony that the US needs to find a reasonable rational end to this war, and that it’s got to be done through a negotiated settlement. That includes the Afghan government having to be involved in this. And thus far, the Taliban has been, to put it politely, reticent to meet their requirements, Kirby said.
Both General Miller, the commander in Afghanistan, and of course the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley has made it clear that they believe that that is a sufficient number to accomplish the mission, which is largely a counterterrorism mission right now, he said, adding that there are many NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) partners in Afghanistan as well.
“There hasn’t been any decisions made now about what that force presence is going to look like going forward. I would say this to leaders of the Taliban, that it is going to be–they make it that much more difficult for final decisions to be made about force presence by their reticence to commit to reasonable, sustainable, and credible negotiations at the table,” Kirby said.
The Taliban is committed to prevent other groups, including Al Qaeda, from using Afghan soil to recruit, train or fund raise toward activities that threaten the US or its allies.
Although the Taliban stopped attacks on international forces as part of the historic deal, it continued to fight the Afghan government. As a condition of starting talks with the Afghan government, the Taliban demanded that thousands of their members be released in a prisoner swap.
Direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in Doha in September last year, but a breakthrough is yet to be reached.
Levels of violence in Afghanistan remain high with journalists, activists, politicians and women judges among those killed in targeted assassinations.