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Trump's envoy clashes with Afghan government over proposed deal with Taliban



WASHINGTON – The Afghan government has clashed with President Trump's envoy on a proposed deal to pull troops with the Taliban, just as Washington is preparing to open the deal, foreign diplomats, Afghan officials and former US officials have said.

Afghanistan officials and US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad have held tense exchanges in Kabul over the past few days after US diplomat briefed President Ashraf Ghani and his advisers on a proposed deal with the Taliban, a foreign diplomat and two officials said.

The government responded to the briefing "badly" and the discussions were marked by "raging arguments", said a foreign diplomat familiar with the talks.

The State Department declined to comment on the discussions in Kabul or details of the proposed US states. The Taliban deal.

The proposed agreement "in principle" with the Taliban will lead to a phased withdrawal of US troops in return for the Taliban's agreement to open peace talks with the Afghan government and pledged not to allow areas under their control to be used as a starting point. playground for al-Qaeda, Islamic State or other terrorist groups. Halilzad said this week that if the agreement is approved by President Trump, the US will initially withdraw about 5,000 troops in 1

35 days.

The Afghan government, which has long been cautious of talks between the US and the Taliban and has never been invited to join, worries that US troops could be withdrawn before the peace agreement is sound and that Washington may have made too many concessions to their opponents, foreign diplomats and Afghan officials.

"The concerns are very great, not only for the government, but also for the people of Afghanistan, because the people of Afghanistan have previously been bitten by this snake," said Wihid Omer, senior advisor to the Afghan president, at a briefing in Kabul in Thursday.

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"We are not yet sure what the consequences of the agreement may be for Afghanistan's future," Omer said. "Our position is that we need more debate on this agreement."

State Department officials said on Thursday Halilzad flew to Qatar's capital Doha, where he had previously spoken with the Taliban. The Taliban maintains a political office in Qatar.

It was not clear if Halilzad would try to secure a major change in the deal, which follows nearly a year of unprecedented Taliban-US talks.

To appease the Afghan government, the US is considering a separate joint statement or declaration that would make clear bilateral agreements between the two countries remain in effect, according to a foreign diplomat and a US source familiar with the matter. In addition, the Afghan government will acknowledge, but not approve – the US-Taliban deal, sources said.

If the Taliban deal goes into effect, the Taliban and the Afghan government will begin peace talks in Oslo later this month.

But an important point is President Gani's pledge to hold elections, as scheduled on September 28, which some Western governments worry about causing more political turmoil and leaving Afghan negotiators divided when trying to reach a peace deal with the Taliban . Some of Ghana's political rivals also oppose the continuation of the polls.

Talks with the Afghan government this week coincided with a series of deadly attacks, including a suicide bombing in Kabul on Monday and a bombing Thursday near an Afghan intelligence agency that killed 10 NATO civilians and two Romanian personnel.

The Trump administration has offered little detail about Taliban talks and rarely explains its approach publicly. Halilzad, who made an optimistic note earlier this week, has been increasingly criticized for talks on both ends of the political spectrum, including by conservative commentators, former military commanders and diplomats and US lawmakers.

Rep. Elliot Engel, DN.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blamed the State Department on Thursday for a stone-walled congress and failed to inform the public about negotiations aimed at ending the longest war in America.

In a letter to Halilzad, Engel asked the envoy to testify before the commission, "so that Congress and the American people have a long overdue opportunity to understand the contours of your negotiations with the Taliban and the potential risks and opportunities that may result from it. . "

Sen, Lindsay Graham, RS.C., a frequently outspoken ally of President Trump, warned against a total change in US troops and said he planned to push for legislation requiring the administration to certify that the withdrawal of US forces did not threatens US national security.

Talks of Taliban skeptics have accused the Trump administration of moving away from tougher positions over the past few months, including an earlier insistence on securing Taliban consent to a ceasefire across the country. US officials now say a deal will be reached between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the first phase of peace talks, according to foreign diplomats.

There are currently approximately 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan advising the Afghan forces and conducting counter-terrorist operations against al-Qaeda and ISIS fighters. The US military has been boots on the ground since 2001, when US forces overthrew the Taliban regime to cover al-Qaeda extremists behind the 9/11 attacks.


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