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US to withdraw troops from five Afghan bases under deal: Special envoy

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo, taken on April 28, 2019, shows US special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in Kabul. (By AFP)

The US special envoy to so-called peace talks with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, says the militants and Washington have reached an agreement in principle and that the US military would withdraw troops from five bases in Afghanistan if conditions in the deal were addressed by the Taliban.

"We have agreed that if the conditions proceed according to the agreement, we will leave within 135 days five bases in which we are present now," Khalilzad told Tolo News, according to an excerpt of an interview the TV station published on Twitter on Monday.

The US chief negotiator also said the agreement still needed final approval from the administration in Washington and that US President Donald Trump would decide at what level the deal will be signed between the officials from the two sides.

Earlier in the day, official media reports said Khalilzad had shown Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose administration has been left out of the talks, the draft of the proposed agreement between the United States and the Taliban for a phased US troop withdrawal.

Under the deal, the troop pullout will purportedly be in exchange for a Taliban commitment that they will not allow Afghanistan to be used by militants to plot attacks on the United States and its allies.

Sediq Seddiqi, the Afghan presidential spokesman, said the government in Kabul would "study and assess" the deal to make sure it addresses the goals of a lasting ceasefire.

"It will take couple of days, probably, that we will get back to them and give them our observations," he noted.

Khalilzad, the Afghan-born US diplomat, who has held nine rounds of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, is meeting Afghan leaders in Kabul this week to build a consensus before the deal is signed.

The talks mainly centered on four key issues, including the US troop withdrawal, counterterrorism assurances, ceasefire, and intra-Afghan negotiations.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Washington was not seeking a permanent military presence in Afghanistan after the Taliban announced they were close to finalizing a peace agreement with the United States.

Nearly 20,000 foreign troops, most of them Americans, are currently deployed in Afghanistan as part of a mission to purportedly train, assist and advise Afghan security forces.

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