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US House defeats an amendment to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

Amendment was soundly defeated

The amendment was defeated with only 129 supporting the amendment while 284 opposed it. Only a slight plurality of Democrats supported the measure while all Republicans but two opposed the amendment. Libertarian Justin Amash supported the amendment.

Trump favors withdrawing all troops

In May President Trump had said that he wanted to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan before the November election. However, since then Democratic leaders have shifted to a more hawkish position and have been trying to prevent a total withdrawal. The Democratic leadership seems to be driven by opposition to Trump’s position.

The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for 19 years now, almost two decades. The Taliban show no sign of being defeated. At the end of this February there was a peace deal between the US and the Taliban. However, the Afghan government was not involved in the deal and refused to carry out the terms of a prisoner swap that was part of the deal. Conflict has continued between the Taliban and the government. However, talks between the Taliban and the government may be possible to reach a deal on the prisoner swap and a possible cease fire and peace deal.

The US Taliban peace deal

The US and the Taliban reached an agreement on February 29h this year. The agreement would require US troop withdrawal but conditional on the Taliban keeping their obligations under the deal: “Under the terms of the deal, the U.S. commits to withdrawing all of its military forces and supporting civilian personnel, as well as those of its allies, within 14 months. The drawdown process will begin with the U.S. reducing its troop levels to 8,600 in the first 135 days and pulling its forces from five bases.”

The US has already reached the goal of reducing troops to 8,600. All of the troops need to be withdrawn only my May 1 next year. Trump could further reduce troop numbers but keep some there after the election to placate hawks who would accuse him or withdrawing all troops too early if he takes them all out. He can leave some for a later withdrawal without violating the agreement with the Taliban.

Prisoner swap and Taliban government talks

The Afghan government was not part of the US Taliban agreement. As part of the agreement the Afghan government was to free up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners for up to 1,000 Afghan security forces held by the Taliban. However, the Afghan government did not agree to this. However, there have been attempts to have peace talks with the Taliban and also to negotiate a prisoner swap.

So far Afghan officials claim they have released about 4,400 prisoners but they have refused to release a last batch of about 600 inmates as they insist they are too dangerous to be released and that some foreign governments also want them to remain in jail.

However, the US and the Taliban are bother urging that the prisoner swap issue be resolved and that talks on a permanent cease fire go forward.

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Ross Wilson the US ambassador to Afghanistan said: “The Afghan people have made clear their impatience. Start intra-Afghan negotiations now so that discussions on a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire can begin.” The US is apparently frustrated at the Afghan government’s failure to complete the prisoner swap. As a result the Taliban have continued attacks so that there has been not the reduction in violence that had been hoped. The US charges d’affairs also urged the government to move on with the prisoner swap and talks:“We urge this country’s leaders promptly to establish the new government, create the High Council for National Reconciliation, complete the exchange of prisoners, and move to the opening of intra-Afghan negotiations.”

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