Taliban Welcomes Trump Hint of U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan by Christmas

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 9: A member of the United States Air Force keeps watch over the runway on September 9, 2017 at Kandahar Air Field in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Currently the United States has about 11,000 troops in the deployed in Afghanistan, with a reported 4,000 more expected to arrive …
Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

The Taliban said on Thursday that it “welcomes” U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion on Wednesday to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan “by Christmas.”

“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The Taliban responded to the statement through its spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, the following day:

The Islamic Emirate [Taliban] welcomes these remarks and considers it a positive step for the implementation of the agreement signed between The IEA [Taliban] and the US. The IEA [Taliban] is also committed to the contents of the agreement and hopes for good and positive relations with all countries, including the US, in the future.

The Taliban and the Afghan government began U.S.-brokered peace talks on September 12 in Doha, Qatar. The U.S. said in February that it would begin a phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan if the two sides agreed to peace negotiations. The Taliban refuses to accept the Afghan government’s rule over the country, dismissing it as illegitimate. The jihadi terror group regularly targets Afghan security forces and has continued to do so over the last month, despite the ongoing peace process. The Taliban has, however, stalled attacks on U.S. and NATO troops.

U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad told Afghanistan’s TOLO News on Wednesday that “he expects the Afghan peace process to be concluded in months, not years.”

Khalilzad also said that ongoing attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan are unacceptable.

“The Taliban attacks are not taking place against the foreign forces … we are happy with that, but, on the other side, the war continues against Afghans,” Khalilzad noted.

“Whether the U.S. stays there or not, this deadly war will continue for years, therefore the peace negotiators should take advantage of the opportunity and agree on a political settlement,” Tariq Farhadi, a former advisor to the Afghan government, said of the possible U.S. troop withdrawal by Christmas, according to TOLO News.

The head of Afghanistan’s High Council of National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday to discuss the ongoing Afghan peace talks and India’s support of the process. Abdullah reacted to Trump’s suggestion a day earlier that U.S. troops could withdraw from Afghanistan by Christmas, or December 25.

“There is no doubt that [by] November, part of that withdrawal will be completed, that’s what we are aware of … and that’s what the U.S. military on the ground was making preparations [for] and some numbers would have been left beyond that, so that is as far as I can say at this moment,” he said.

“U.S. forces will pull out from Afghanistan 4 months prior to the US-Taliban agreement” should they withdraw by December 25, TOLO News noted on Thursday.

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