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President Ghani says Afghanistan will survive after US troop withdrawal

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (C) speaks in presidential palace in Kabul, August 11, 2019. (Photo by AP)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says a partial withdrawal of US troops from the country will not have a crucial impact on the lives of the Afghan people.

President Ghani told Afghanistan’s TOLOnews on Thursday that the withdrawal of some 5,000 troops from the country “will not bring basic changes in our lives.”

He said the remaining number of forces “will support our Air Force, our Commando Force, and other Defense and Security Forces and will help the Resolute Support to continue [its mission in Afghanistan].”

Currently, there are about 20,000 foreign troops, mostly American, in Afghanistan as part of a US-led mission to purportedly train, assist and advise Afghan forces.

Ghani further said he had called on US President Donald Trump in a letter seven months ago to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

US army soldiers walk as a NATO helicopter flies overhead at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. (AFP file photo)

“The number of troops has not been mentioned in the bilateral agreement [between Afghanistan and the US] and in multilateral agreement with NATO… Reduction or increase in the number of troops is conditions-based,” he said.  

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Ghani added. 

It was reported that some 5,000 US troops will be withdrawn in 135 days from five bases in Afghanistan.

President Ghani said the bases are small and that they will be handed to the Afghan forces. 

US, Taliban launch new round of talks in Doha

Ghani made the remarks as representatives from the US and the Taliban militant group resumed a new round of talks in Qatar’s capital city, Doha, on Thursday.

A senior US official said that American negotiator “Zalmay Khalilza will inform the top Afghan leaders about the peace deal and then finalize a declaration to end the war in Afghanistan.”

Ghani, however, said previously that peace was only possible with an agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

The Taliban, which now control or have influence in about half of Afghanistan’s territory, have held several rounds of direct talks with US officials in the Qatari capital since October. The militants say they do not recognize the government in Kabul.

The negotiations take place almost 18 years after the US military invaded Afghanistan to overthrow a ruling Taliban regime. 

The exit of foreign troops from Afghanistan is a condition set by the Taliban to extend the talks.

The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the US invasion of the country in 2001.

American forces have since remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now, Donald Trump.

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