WASHINGTON: The US would reportedly withdraw nearly 5,000 troops from five bases in Afghanistan within five months under a draft peace deal with the Taliban, yet the Trump administration and military officials reportedly remain in disagreement over whether to keep a CIA presence.
The deal, which took months of negotiations, still requires President Trump’s approval, Reuters reports. Afghan President Ashram Ghani has been briefed on the accord and will reportedly look it over in detail before weighing in.
If signed, the deal will prohibit the Taliban from allowing militants to use Afghanistan to plan attacks on the United States or its allies, Reuters reported. The agreement also includes a provision for “intra-Afghan” talks to end the conflict between the Taliban and Kabul’s western-backed government.
Ghani has met with special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and plans to “study and assess” the specifics of the agreement, according to Reuters.
A spokesman told reporters that “for us, a meaningful peace or a path to a meaningful peace is the end of violence and direct negotiation with the Taliban.”
However, according to a report by the New York Times, some White House advisers have proposed secretly expanding the CIA presence in Afghanistan if troops are withdrawn. Some officials told the paper they want CIA-backed forces in the country as part of a counterterrorism force.
They claim it could quell concerns that the US will be left with little ability to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base of operations. The Times said it based the report off interviews with a half-dozen of current or former officials briefed on the discussions yet neither the CIA nor the White House confirmed the reports.
The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, spanning 18 years, on a mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban, as well as conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS. If the agreement goes into effect, the amount of troops in the country would be similar to when Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, the Associated Press reports.