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‘No Covert Deal with Taliban’

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KABUL: Russian President’s envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, has said that he has been reassured by the U.S. side that there had been no covert deal between the United States and the Taliban.

He said he had met with the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, at the threshold of the signing of the peace agreement. “Khalilzad had sworn that there had been no secret clauses with military implications in the peace agreement,” he said.

“In fact, the Taliban also confirmed this. Perhaps, the U.S. and NATO will gradually withdraw their 16,000-17,000 forces within 14 months. There seems to be a plan, a timetable for withdrawal of troops. Details may have been explained. I have no more explanations about Secretary Pompeo’s comments,” he said.

On Saturday and after a week of reduced violence, the United States and the Taliban signed a peace agreement. The deal includes a 14-month deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, political settlement resulting from intra-Afghan dialogue, a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, and guarantees to prevent the use of Afghan soil by any terrorist groups against the security of the US and its allies.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Taliban to honour its commitments. “I know there will be a temptation to declare victory, but victory for Afghans will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper,” he said at the Doha ceremony.

The agreement marks a turning point in an 18-year war against insurgency in Afghanistan and sets motion for the Washington to gradually reduce its military presence as part of the agreement. The Taliban have long demanded an American military withdrawal. About 14,000 US troops and approximately 17,000 troops from 39 NATO allies and partner countries are stationed in Afghanistan in a non-combatant role.

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