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US official warns Congress on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

About 3,500 US troops are currently in Afghanistan, as a May 1 deadline for a complete withdrawal approaches [File: Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

US official warns Congress on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A top us official performing on Afghanistan has warned Congress that a withdrawal folks troops from the country without a peace agreement between the Afghan government and therefore the Taliban would be “a disaster”.

John Sopko, the US Department of Defense’s special inspector for Afghanistan reconstruction, told a House of Representatives committee on Tuesday that without US military and support , the Afghan government in Kabul could face collapse.

“The Afghan government would probably lose the potential of flying any of its aircraft within a couple of months and, to be quite blunt, would probably face collapse,” he said.

His warning comes days before another round of peace talks is about to require place between the Taliban and therefore the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani – and only weeks before a May Day deadline for the withdrawal folks troops from the country.

The US’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will attend the conference in Moscow on March 18, while the Taliban said it plans to send a 10-person, high-level delegation led by chief negotiator Mullah Baradar Akhund.

Under a February 2020 deal reached between the Taliban and therefore the administration of former US President Donald Trump, all foreign troops are set to be withdrawn from the country by May Day .
There are currently about 3,500 US troops and 10,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan.

“Because of the pre-existing agreement between the Trump administration and therefore the Taliban, [the Biden administration has] to make a decision whether or not they pull the plug on May Day ,” Representative Stephen Lynch, a Democrat, said during Tuesday’s hearing.

“Tell me what to expect if the administration indeed pulls the remaining troops out,” Lynch asked Sopko.

Sopko said the Taliban has attacked Afghan soldiers and police in regions of the country the group wants to regulate , so as to realize leverage in ongoing negotiations with the Afghan government. “That will continue,” he said.

At an equivalent time, corruption within the Afghan government remains an enormous problem and serves to strengthen Taliban claims to political legitimacy, the military officer said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has outlined plans for talks between Afghan parties and therefore the Taliban on a transitional government.

A Taliban spokesman has expressed scepticism over the US proposal, however, saying transitional governments have proven ineffective which the group’s vision for the country revolved around a robust central administration capable of enforcing its definition of an Islamic system of governance.

Muhammad Naim, a Taliban spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the group didn’t believe an interim government could affect the country’s challenges.

“Transitional governments were formed after the American occupation, a number of them transitional, others participatory but none of them have solved the country’s problems,” Naim said.

Sopko’s remarks came in an appearance before a House Government Oversight subcommittee during which Democrats and Republicans expressed frustration with the US’s long and dear occupation of Afghanistan.

“We’re lighting money ablaze ,” said Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The US has spent $143bn on reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2002, including $88bn for training and support for the Afghan army. The Western-backed government in Kabul relies for the maximum amount as 80 percent of its annual funding on aid from the US and other nations, Sopko said.

“Afghan security forces are nowhere near achieving self-sufficiency, as they can’t maintain their equipment, manage their supply chains or train new soldiers, pilots and policemen” without outside funding, Sopko said.

Last month, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin involved a discount in violence in Afghanistan and said more progress was needed in Afghan peace negotiations before Western forces withdraw from the war-torn country.

“Clearly, the violence is just too high immediately and more progress must be to be made within the Afghan-led negotiations,” Austin said on February 19.

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