The United States signed a peace agreement with Taliban militants Saturday in an effort to bring the 18 years of war in Afghanistan to an end.
The agreement outlines the process for U.S. troops to be removed from the area with the complete withdrawal to depend on the Taliban meeting its terrorism-prevention commitments, The Associated Press reported.
In the next 3-4 months, the U.S. will withdraw about 4,400 troops from Afghanistan, bringing the number of troops there down from 13,000 to 8,600.
The complete removal of troops is scheduled to happen in 14 months.
“Part of the process of making peace is to begin to take down the edifice [of sanctions], but the language is carefully constructed to be conditional, depending on Taliban performance,” a senior State Department official told NPR on condition of anonymity.
“If the Taliban don’t do what we hope they’ll do, our requirements to begin to take down that edifice are vitiated.”
In remarks earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the agreement rests on the Taliban’s ability to uphold their promise to sever ties with terrorists so that the United States homeland remains protected.
“The Taliban must respect the agreement, specifically regarding their promises of severing ties with terrorists. We’re not required to leave unless they can demonstrate they are fulfilling every element of their end of the bargain,” he said.
“So we have our deep counterterrorism interest there, making sure that the homeland is never attacked. It’s one of the central underpinnings of what President Trump has laid before us.”
BREAKING: The US and Taliban have signed a historic peace deal, in which the US has agreed to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan within 14 months.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 29, 2020
The agreement also outlines conditions for an exchange of prisoners between the Afghan government and the Taliban in order to build trust.
The Afghan government is expected to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security forces held by the Taliban.
“The road to peace will be long and hard and there will be setbacks, and there is a risk always for spoilers,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, according to the AP.
“But the thing is, we are committed, the Afghan people are committed to peace, and we will continue to provide support.”
The agreement is just another step toward President Donald Trump’s promise to get the U.S. out of its “endless wars” in the Middle East.
The invasion of Afghanistan was ordered by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Over 18 years later, the U.S. has spent more than $750 billion on the war.
There are currently over 16,500 NATO soldiers serving in the area as well, 8,000 of which are American.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to America’s sons and daughters who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and to the many thousands who served over the past nearly 19 years,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement celebrating the deal, NPR reported.
UPDATE, March 2, 2020: When originally published, this article included an estimate from the AP of the number of lives lost in Afghanistan. The AP has since removed that information from their article. We have removed this incorrect information from our article, and we apologize to our readers for any confusion we may have caused.
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