US starts pulling out troops as peace deal with Taliban is signed
The US has begun withdrawing troops from Afghanistan after signing a peace deal with the Taliban, America’s enemy in its longest-ever war.
“The Coalition will complete the withdrawal of their remaining forces from Afghanistan within 14 months following the announcement of this joint declaration and the US-Taliban agreement … subject to the Taliban’s fulfilment of its commitments under the US-Taliban agreement,” Saturday’s statement said.
The US would initially reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8600 within 135 days of the agreement, which has been signed in the Qatari capital of Doha.
Signing the peace agreement with Taliban militants on Saturday could bring an end to 18 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan and allow US troops to return home from America’s longest war.
Former US President George W. Bush ordered the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre.
Some US troops currently serving there had not yet been born when the 9/11 attacks occurred.
It only took a few months to topple the Taliban and send Osama bin Laden and top al-Qaeda militants scrambling across the border into Pakistan, but the war dragged on for years as the United States tried to establish a stable, functioning state in one of the least developed countries in the world.
The Taliban regrouped, and currently hold sway over half the country.
The US spent more than $750 billion ($A1149 billion), and on all sides the war cost tens of thousands of lives lost, permanently scarred and indelibly interrupted.
But the conflict was also frequently ignored by US politicians and the American public.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Saturday.
He will stand with leaders of the Taliban, who harboured bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network as they plotted, and then celebrated, the hijackings of four airliners that were crashed into lower Manhattan, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania, killing almost 3000 people.
Mr Pompeo privately told a conference of US ambassadors at the State Department this week that he was going only because US President Donald Trump had insisted on his participation, according to two people present. It’s not clear if he will actually sign the agreement.
Dozens of Taliban members meanwhile held a small victory march in Qatar in which they waved the militant group’s white flags, according to a video shared on Taliban websites.
“Today is the day of victory, which has come with the help of Allah,” said Abbas Stanikzai, one of the Taliban’s lead negotiators, who joined the march.
Mr Trump has repeatedly promised to get the US out of its “endless wars” in the Middle East, and the withdrawal of troops could provide a boost as he seeks re-election in a nation weary of involvement in distant conflicts.