KABUL: US-led troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond the deadline laid down in a peace deal with the Taliban because the militants have failed to comply with the agreement, NATO officials said on Sunday.
The move casts doubt on the future of the agreement signed last year, under which international troops would withdraw before May in return for the insurgents fulfilling security guarantees.
The Afghan government and others say the Taliban has failed to meet the deal’s conditions, with an escalation in violence and a failure to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.
“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by the end of April,” a senior NATO official said. “Conditions have not been met.
“And with the new US administration there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal that was prevalent will be addressed, and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”
President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Dawa Khan Menapal told Arab News: “We have a partnership against joint threats with NATO, which is led by America. Our campaign is also a joint one, and any decision will be taken after evaluating the threat jointly too.”
There are an estimated 10,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, in addition to US soldiers. The NATO said troop levels were expected to stay about the same until after May, but the plan beyond that was not clear.
Some analysts feared NATO’s plan to keep troops in Afghanistan may draw strong resistance from the Taliban and could lead to a further escalation of the conflict and growing intervention from its neighbors through their proxies.
Former government adviser Torek Farhadi said the coalition may intend to bring about a situation in which both Kabul and the Taliban agreed on a roadmap before pulling out its troops.
“If US-NATO troops stay a few months longer to give Afghans a chance to create a coalition government through a political settlement, I would welcome it because we need a certain level of guarantee during the first 12 months of such a transition,” he told Arab News.
“In that case, it has to be made clear to both parties that they need to make fast progress toward a coalition governance system and not waste this last window of opportunity.”
He said Afghanistan could head toward another decade of war if troops stayed on and conditions were only set for the Taliban, without the government being told to neutralize “peace spoilers.”