KABUL: The Taliban welcomed the latest withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan with the insurgents’ spokesman on Saturday calling the continued reduction of American forces a “good advancement” even as fighting raged across the war-weary country.
The Taliban’s statement came just hours after the Pentagon announced it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, their lowest numbers during the nearly two decades of fighting.
Washington struck a deal with the Taliban in Qatar last year to begin withdrawing its troops in return for security guarantees from the militants and a commitment to peace talks with Kabul.
Those talks are ongoing, but have stalled amid violence and allegations of slow progress.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has continued its lethal assaults on Afghan security forces and civilians alike.
“The withdrawal of other US forces from Afghanistan, which was announced by the US yesterday, is a good advancement and practical measure,” tweeted Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem.
“Undoubtedly, the practice of the agreement signed between the IEA and the US is in the benefit of both countries and nations,” he added, referring to the Taliban’s official acronym.
Outgoing President Donald Trump, seeking to fulfil a campaign promise to end the US wars launched in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, had ordered force levels to be slashed in both countries to that level by Jan 15 — despite initial pushback from the Pentagon.
Both the Taliban and Afghan government, however, are anxiously eyeing the arrival of president-elect Joe Biden in Washington and any new policy directions that might be implemented by the incoming administration.
The US invaded Afghanistan on Oct 7, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban regime then in place had hosted Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
The regime was quickly toppled but launched an insurgency and in recent years have seen a resurgence, with violence soaring across the country since Nato withdrew its combat forces in 2014 and civilians paying a disproportionate price.
Earlier on Saturday, Afghan officials said two Taliban fighters had infiltrated a base of pro-government Afghan militiamen in western Herat province, killing 12 security forces.
And in a separate incident, a vehicle carrying police was struck by a roadside bomb in the Afghan capital Kabul, which killed two policemen and wounded one other.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2021