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AFP
July 15, 2020

US pushes Taliban to reduce unrest as deal enters ‘next phase’

World

AFP
July 15, 2020

KABUL: The United States has said its landmark deal with the Taliban has entered the “next phase” while urging the militants to reduce rising violence to allow Afghan peace talks to begin.

The two sides signed an agreement in February that saw Washington pledge to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the middle of next year, in return for the insurgents promising to hold negotiations with the Afghan government to end the decades-old war. Under phase one, the US said it would reduce troops to 8,600 within 135 days, while completely removing forces from five military bases. On the 135th day, US Special Representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the deal for Washington, tweeted that both sides had reached a “key milestone”.

“The US has worked hard to carry out 1st phase of its commitments under the agreement, including to reduce troops & depart five bases,” he said Monday.

As the deal entered its “next phase”, Washington´s approach will be based on certain conditions, Khalilzad warned. “We will press for completion of prisoner releases, reduction of violence... & start of & progress in intra-Afghan negotiations,” he said. The Taliban on Tuesday welcomed the cut in US forces, but claimed that American troops had frequently carried out bombings in non-combat zones and “offensives” in support of the Kabul government in several provinces.

It also accused US pilots of carrying out airstrikes against civilians, mujahideen and public infrastructure in the past 10 days. “These all are blatant violations of the agreement and deliberate attempt at provoking the mujahideen towards large-scale attacks,” the Taliban said. The deal was signed after a lull in violence, but the Taliban have since stepped up attacks across much of Afghanistan killing hundreds, officials say.