Washington, Mar 10 : The US troops began withdrawing from Afghanistan on Tuesday as part of the peace deal that it signed with the Taliban in Doha, capital of Doha last week. Under the deal signed on February 29, the US will be reducing the number of its troops from about 12,000 to 8,600 withing 135 days of signing the peace deal.
The US and its NATO allies have agreed to withdraw all their troops within 14 months on the condition that the militants uphold the deal. The deal was signed between the US government and the Taliban in which the Afghan government did not participate. However it is expected that it will hold talks with the Taliban. The main point of contention between the Afghan government and the Taliban was the demand by the Taliban that the Afghan government first release about 1,000 Taliban prisoners as a precondition for talks. The US had agreed to the Taliban's demand, but President Ghani had said that the US has no authority to take such decisions. However, President Ghani in his inaugural address on Monday after taking oath for his second term announced that more than a 1,000 Taliban members will be released from prison this week.
The Taliban had called for de-escalation and on Monday, as Col Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, announced the first phase of the American withdrawal process. The US retains "all the military means and authorities to accomplish our objectives" in Afghanistan despite the withdrawal of troops, Col Leggett said in a statement. Under the terms of agreement, the militants have agreed to refrain from carrying out all attacks as well as not allowing al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.
The US had invaded Afghanistan weeks after the September 2001 attacks in New York which was carried out by al-Qaeda, then based in Afghanistan. In the years following the American invasion the Taliban were ousted from power but was not wiped out. It became an insurgent force which regularly carried out attacks on foreign and the Afghan forces and by 2018 was active in more than two-thirds of the country. Kabul has been repeatedly attacked by the Taliban.
More than 2,400 US troops have been killed in the conflict in Afghanistan. As the US troops begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan, the country is faced with a fresh prospect of political instability as the country's two top leaders President Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah held separate swearing-in-ceremonies on Monday for the presidency. This dispute at the top will threaten the fragile peace and socio-political stability of Afghanistan and also gravely affect the prospects of holding intra-Afghan talks, to which the Taliban has also agreed to. Some even fear that such political instability will likely pave the way for the return of the Taliban to power, thus plunging the country under extreme Islamic rule. (UNI)