Negotiations still ongoing
As of Thursday evening no deal had been finalized but there are indications that the US is willing to almost immediately draw down troops in return for a ceasefire on the part of the Taliban. The US sees the peace process as working through four stages with the first involving withdrawal of foreign troops a key demand of the Taliban, a Taliban commitment to keep ISIS and Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, a ceasefire, and then last a power-sharing agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan Ghani government.
The first two stages seem to be more or less agreed upon. At this stage it appears that the US is willing to offer an immediate drawdown of troops. Also, for the final stage the Afghan government has chosen a team that will eventually negotiate with the Talban. However, this will take place only after the three other stages are completed or at least well along towards being so.
The agreement on troop reduction
The Washington Post first reported on the possible troop reduction: “According to The Post, the U.S. is willing to drawdown to between 8,000 and 9,000 troops from its current level of 14,000 in exchange for a Taliban cease fire and the group’s renunciation of al Qaeda.”
MIke Pompeo promised Afghan troop reduction before the next election
Mike Pompeo made remarks that led many to believe that the US was committed to withdrawing some troops from Afghanistan before the 2020 election as reported in a recent Digital Journal article: “Mike Pompeo US Secretary of State confirmed Monday that the Trump administration plans to reduce the number of US ground troops in Afghanistan before the 2020 election. However the timing and size of the reduction are not yet settled.”
Yet later, Pompeo appeared to backtrack on his statements or at least qualify them: ” “I saw the reporting on that. I wish reporters had been a little more careful in what they had said. They got it wrong. There’s no deadline for this,”Pompeo said in response to a question when asked for a clarification. ”
If there is a successful agreement with the Taliban no doubt a complete withdrawal of foreign troops including those of the US will be part of any deal. This has been a key demand of the Taliban.