Trump tweet may have given Taliban upper hand in peace negotiations

Trump tweet may have given Taliban upper hand in peace negotiations
The Afghan government’s chief negotiator, Abdullah Abdullah, has warned that a recent tweet by Trump, in which he declared that the remaining US forces in Afghanistan “should” be home for Christmas, may further beleaguer the country’s already difficult peace and reconciliation process. (Reuters/File Photos)
Short Url
Updated 16 October 2020

Trump tweet may have given Taliban upper hand in peace negotiations

Trump tweet may have given Taliban upper hand in peace negotiations
  • A Taliban spokesperson welcomed the president’s remarks
  • Roughly 5,000 US troops remain in the war-torn country, primarily to train local security forces

LONDON: US President Donald Trump’s tweet calling for US troops in Afghanistan to be home by Christmas may have given the Taliban the upper hand in peace negotiations, according to Afghanistan’s chief peace negotiator.

A complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan — after 19 years of war — is a major Taliban goal in their ongoing negotiations with the Afghan government, and Trump has made it clear that he would also see this as a foriegn policy victory.

Negotiations between the Taliban and government over a post-US power-sharing agreement have been slow and beset by ongoing violence in the country.

The Afghan government’s chief negotiator, Abdullah Abdullah, has warned that a recent tweet by Trump, in which he declared that the remaining US forces in Afghanistan “should” be home for Christmas, may further beleaguer the country’s already difficult peace and reconciliation process.

Abdullah told the Financial Times that the Taliban “might see it in their advantage” and come back by force if the US withdrew.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, said he considered the comments a positive step for the implementation of the US-Taliban peace agreement, adding that the group remains “committed to the contents of the agreement and hope for good and positive relations with all countries.”

But concerns have regularly been raised by observers — much like those of Abdullah — that a complete US withdrawal could embolden the Taliban to abandon the peace process and seek to seize power.

“This would be a big disaster," a Pakistan Foreign Ministry official told the FT. “The Taliban who welcomed Trump’s remarks will then consider Afghanistan to be free to conquer and install an Islamist government,” they said.

The US currently has fewer than 5,000 troops remaining in the country as part of a NATO mission, down from a peak of over 100,000 in 2010.

The peace talks have so far yielded few results, though they were always expected to be long and arduous. They have been further complicated by a surge in violence in Afghanistan that has seen the US conduct airstrikes against the Taliban, and up to 5,600 families fleeing their homes in Helmand province.

Related


UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
Updated 17 January 2021

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March

UK hopes to be able to consider lockdown easing in March
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers

LONDON: Britain’s government hopes it can meet its target for rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and be able to consider easing lockdown restrictions by March, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday.
The country, which has Europe’s highest COVID-19 death toll, has been under a national lockdown since Jan. 5, when schools were closed for most pupils, non-essential businesses were shut to the public, and people were ordered to work from home where possible.
“What we want to do is get out of this national lockdown as soon as possible,” Raab told Sky News television.
“By early spring, hopefully by March, we’ll be in a position to make those decisions. I think it’s right to say we won’t do it all in one big bang. As we phase out the national lockdown, I think we’ll end up phasing through a tiered approach.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a target of vaccinating the elderly, including care home residents, the clinically vulnerable and frontline workers — or roughly more than 13 million people — by mid-February.
If all goes smoothly, he has said that England can consider easing lockdown restrictions from that time.
The Sunday Times newspaper said British ministers had reached a deal to approve a three-point plan that could lead to some lockdown restrictions being lifted as soon as early March.
Areas will have restrictions eased once their death rate has fallen, the number of hospital admissions drops and some people aged between 50 and 70 are vaccinated, the newspaper said.
The Sunday Times quoted cabinet ministers as saying they were prepared to resist pressure from health advisers to delay the changes until most people are vaccinated, a process that would take until the summer at least.
“For the first time there are no significant divisions between hawks and doves in the cabinet,” a cabinet source told the newspaper. “Everyone accepted that we need to lock down hard and everyone accepts that we need to open up before everyone is vaccinated.”
A spokesman in Johnson’s office declined to comment on the report.