Afghan officials downplay US president’s announcement on early troop withdrawal

Trump said in a Twitter post that the remaining US service personnel stationed in Afghanistan should be “home by Christmas.” (AFP)
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Updated 08 October 2020

Afghan officials downplay US president’s announcement on early troop withdrawal

  • Trump tweets remaining 5,000 American soldiers ‘home by Christmas’ — months ahead of proposed spring 2021 pullout
  • Around 4,000 US service personnel have left Afghanistan since US, Taliban signed February peace deal

KABUL: Afghan government officials on Thursday said US President Donald Trump’s announcement that all American troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Christmas — sooner than previously outlined — would have no impact on the war-torn country’s security.

In an unexpected move, Trump said in a Twitter post that the remaining US service personnel stationed in Afghanistan should be “home by Christmas.”

The pullout had earlier been scheduled for spring 2021, following a US-Taliban deal in February to end the protracted conflict in Afghanistan, which started after the American invasion in 2001 that removed the Taliban from power.

“The withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan will have no effect on the situation of Afghanistan and our security forces have the capacity to defend the country without the presence of foreign troops,” Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the defense ministry, told Arab News.

He said that for the past six months Afghan security forces had been planning and conducting offensives independently, without assistance from US-led troops.

The US and NATO had pledged to provide support for Afghan troops, despite their soldiers’ departure, until “the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan and in the region is annihilated,” Aman added.

In a video message, Afghan army chief, Yasin Zia, said that Afghan forces had earned the “ability to foil enemy attacks” and were equipped with sophisticated ground and aerial weapons and aircraft which were unmatched in the region.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office was unavailable for comment.

Trump’s decision came as intra-Afghan talks were taking place in Doha, Qatar, where nearly a month ago Taliban and Afghan government negotiators were brought to the table to decide the country’s future political setup.

Discussions have lately reached a stalemate, which may turn Afghanistan “into a Syria, if each side insists on being right on everything. It would be repeating the errors of the past,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, told Afghan media on Wednesday.

The Taliban, meanwhile, welcomed Trump’s decision. The group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News: “The Islamic Emirate welcomes this announcement and considers it as a positive step in the implementation of the agreement between the Islamic Emirate and America.”

The troop withdrawal was Trump’s electoral promise in 2016, which he appears to be trying to fulfill as he seeks reelection in November.

Hours before Trump’s tweet, US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the US would reduce the number of troops it had in Afghanistan to 2,500 early next year. Currently, some 5,000 American soldiers remain in the country. As per the US-Taliban accord, 4,000 have already left since February.

Torek Farhadi, a former adviser to the Afghan government, said Trump’s announcement gave the “Taliban an edge, at least psychologically, as they see the republic (Ghani’s government) side very dependent on the US, both financially and militarily.”

With no sign of any breakthrough in intra-Afghan talks, he warned the war could go on for years if Afghan leaders and warring parties “don’t start to find a solution for peace right there, when they are at the negotiations table.”

As Ghani traveled to Qatar to help with the stalemate in talks, Farhadi said Trump’s team might have briefed him about the US president’s decision.

Officials in Kabul refused to comment on whether Trump had informed the Afghan government about his decision.

Zabihullah Pakteen, an analyst, told Arab News that Trump’s move was “a surprise both within US military hierarchy and in Afghanistan” and could be detrimental to the peace process. “The withdrawal of troops before the deadline throws the peace process in jeopardy,” he said.
 


US judge delays extradition of Carlos Ghosn's accused escape plotters to Japan

Updated 29 October 2020

US judge delays extradition of Carlos Ghosn's accused escape plotters to Japan

  • Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a "brazen" escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on Dec. 29, 2019
  • Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing

BOSTON: A federal judge on Thursday granted a last-minute request to stop the US government from turning over to Japan two Massachusetts men to face charges that they helped smuggle former Nissan Motor Co Chairman Carlos Ghosn out of the country while he was awaiting trial on financial crimes.
US District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston granted a request by lawyers for US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, to delay the transfer shortly before the two men were scheduled to be placed on a flight to Japan.
Their lawyers sought the delay after the State Department approved handing over the men, who in September lost a court challenge to their potential extradition. They were arrested in May at the request of Japanese authorities.
Taylors' lawyers and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a "brazen" escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on Dec. 29, 2019, hidden in a box and on a private jet before reaching Lebanon, his childhood home, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan's financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.
The State Department notified the Taylors' lawyers of its decision on Wednesday.
US Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, a Republican who has taken interest in the case, wrote on Twitter that he was "outraged" by the State Department's decision to extradite the two men. "This former Special Forces member and his son will not be treated fairly," he said.