Omar Daudzai, the head of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, told CNN on Friday that a rapid US troop withdrawal would increase violence in his country.
“If it happened in a matter that’s not orderly … if it happens that it leaves a vacuum behind, then obviously bloodshed would increase,” Daudzai said in an interview with CNN’s Nic Robertson.
US officials and Taliban negotiators recently finished a round of talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar, to discuss ways of ending the United States’ 17-year role in Afghanistan. More talks are due to resume in Doha in late February.
In comments given to The New York Times and confirmed to CNN by the US Embassy in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghanistan, said Monday that the two sides have agreed in principle to a framework for moving forward.
Khalilzad sent a series of tweets Thursday about the talks, saying, “We made significant progress on two vital issues: counter terrorism and troop withdrawal. That doesn’t mean we’re done. We’re not even finished with these issues yet, and there is still work to be done on other vital issues like intra-Afghan dialogue and a complete ceasefire.”
Daudzi told CNN that while the negotiations have brought “clarity,” neither side has fully agreed to anything.
The Taliban are demanding the United States commit to a withdrawal schedule and the United States wants the Taliban to commit to attacking al Qaeda and ISIS after the deal, he said.
One key point is not close to being resolved.
The Taliban refuses to talk face to face with the Afghan government, Daudzai said.
“I think they (Taliban leaders) are worried that unless there is withdrawal schedule announced by US troops, if they meet with the Afghan government (it) would demoralize their commanders and field soldiers,” Daudzi said. “Why are we fighting if you are talking?”
The Afghan government has always been willing to meet with the Taliban, said Daudzi, the former interior minister of Afghanistan who now leads the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, a group created in 2011 to spearhead reconciliation efforts.
When asked whether the possible pullout of US troops was a major concern, Daudzi said, “We judge the relationship on the ground. We don’t see any practical consequences yet. But a pressure from President Trump — that (he is) going withdraw and reduce costs — that pressure in a way creates concern, but also creates and opportunity.”
Trump tweeted Friday that he “inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan” and that “We spend $50 Billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace after 18 long years.”
The US has about 14,000 troops in the country, most of which are present as part of a larger NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.
The conflict in Afghanistan, known as America’s longest war, started after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It has has cost more than 2,400 American lives, billions of US dollars and has stretched into its third US presidential administration.
More than 45,000 Afghan security personnel have died since 2014, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said recently at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.