Referring to the Taliban’s unwillingness to engage in a serious way in Doha talks, a top US diplomat in Kabul, speaking on condition of anonymity, says it “deeply frustrates” the US government and the Afghan leaders. He has confirmed around 600 US troops will remain in Kabul and that the new chapter of US-Afghanistan relations is much like the old one.
The diplomat has confirmed the country would keep around 600 troops in Kabul to defend its embassy compound, facilities at the Kabul airport, and US diplomats, after the completion of the withdrawal process. “These are primarily people who would defend our embassy compound in green zone, Kabul, and our facilities at the airport from potential attacks by the Talibs, ISIS-K, or any other groups” that harmed the US in the past.
On June 25, the Associated Press reported the US will roughly keep 650 troops to ensure security of the American diplomats in Afghanistan after the main American military withdrawal.
US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal plan of the US troops, which was welcomed by its NATO allies as well, on April 14. All the foreign troops will leave Afghanistan by September 11, this years, according to the plan.
Though the Taliban welcomed the announcement, the group termed it as a violation of the US-Taliban peace deal which had set May 01 as the deadline for complete foreign troop’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, not September 11.
Moreover, the US diplomat also confirmed there is an “ongoing discussion” between the US and Turkey about Turkey providing security services and run Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul after the withdrawal. “The Turks being part of a larger entity that helps to ensure the effective safe and secure operation of the airport.”
The Taliban however reacted against it. On Saturday, June 12, the militant group warned it would be “unacceptable” to them and a “mistake” by any nation to retain military presence in Afghanistan for guarding airports or other installations after the foreign troops’ withdrawal.
The intra-Afghan talks between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban which were kicked off in Doha in September 2020 did not lead to cessation of hostilities in Afghanistan. It has remained bogged down since then. Months earlier, as part of the US-led initiative, a high level conference had been set to be held on April 24 in Istanbul. The UN, Qatar, and Turkey were supposed to co-host the conference between the Afghan negotiating parties.
Nearly in mid-April, the Taliban walked away of the conference saying they will not attend any conference until “all foreign forces completely withdraw” from Afghanistan.
Referring to that, the US diplomat said the group’s “unwillingness” or “inability” to attend the conference and their unwillingness to engage in a serious way in Doha “deeply frustrate” the US government and the Afghan leaders. “So, there are several avenues we are working with our partners in the region, in particular with Pakistanis, even with Russia and China through the Extended Troika with other international partners to try to bring some different pressures and influences to bear such the Taliban will meaningfully engage,” the diplomat said about the US efforts to encourage the Taliban to resort to a peaceful means to solve Afghanistan problems.
The top US diplomat also expressed optimism that no one in the region is seeking a conclusion to the Afghanistan problems through military means.
New chapter in US-Afghanistan relations
The US and Afghan officials have repeatedly referred to Afghanistan and US relations after the foreign troops’ withdrawal as a “new chapter” in the country’s bilateral ties. In this chapter, the US has already expressed commitments that will provide economic, financial, and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. “It is a robust diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian engagement; an engagement by other means in support of the Afghan people, of the Islamic Republic, the gains of the last 20 years,” the US diplomat said about the new chapter.
Moreover, the diplomat assembled this chapter very similar to the old one saying the only differences is that it doesn’t include a large-scale American force stationed in Afghanistan.
He also described President Ghani’s meeting with the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as an “important part” of the visit. The US top diplomat also stated America has substantial interests in counter-terrorism cooperation, and other cooperation with NDS and other institutions of the Afghan government.
It reflects America’s commitment to Afghanistan’s success and its ability to defend itself against all manner of threats, he said about the US and Afghanistan joint counter-terrorism efforts in the new chapter.