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Trump mulls Afghan troop withdrawal, Taliban peace deal

AT News

KABUL: President Donald Trump in a speech in India said on Tuesday that he is expecting a peace agreement with the Taliban very soon to formally end the war in Afghanistan and withdraw some U.S. troops.

“We’re pretty close in signing an agreement,” Trump told reporters Tuesday in New Delhi. “We’ve got two days now under our belt without violence” or with minimal violence, the president said.

U.S. and Taliban leaders intend to sign a peace deal on Feb. 29, provided that a week-long reduction in violence that started early Saturday remain in place. Trump in September pulled out of plans for peace talks with the Taliban after a U.S. soldier was killed in a suicide bombing.

The U.S. currently has around 13,000 troops in the country, and administration officials said they would be withdrawn only if the Taliban meets certain conditions.

A seven-day period of reduced violence began on Friday night in which neither side attacks. The period includes a moratorium on the roadside explosive devices, rockets and suicide bombers that have been the Taliban trademark and continued as recently as last month. If the weeklong mull is declared a success, U.S. and Taliban leaders will sign a deal in Doha, Qatar, on February 29 that begins the drawdown of American troops in exchange for Taliban vows to fight terrorism and stop attacks against the United States.

This comes amid a domestic obstacle, election deadlock. Official presidential election results announced last week – nearly five months after the vote – gave the victory to incumbent President Ashraf Ghani. But his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has refused to recognize that outcome and declared himself the victor. Within days, the opposing camps deployed their own security forces in an increasingly tense Kabul, and regional warlords were choosing sides.

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