Toronto, February 7: A Taliban official has announced that the United States has agreed to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April this year. Taliban spokesperson Abdul Salam Hanafi, said American officials pledged the pullout will begin this month. "The Americans told us that from the beginning of February to the end of April half of the troops from Afghanistan will be withdrawn," Hanafi told reporters.
Hanafi was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting in Moscow between the Taliban and other prominent Afghan figures. However, this report was not confirmed by anyone in the U.S. military nor the Trump Administration. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said the US military had received no orders to begin any withdrawal of troops. "Peace talks with the Taliban continue, but [the Defense Department] has not received a directive to change the force structure in Afghanistan," said Manning.
However, this statement was also contradicted by another senior Taliban figure Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai who said no date had been decided upon for the US troop withdrawal. He did say that there was a general agreement that all foreign troops would eventually leave and Afghanistan would never be used as a base for attacks on the US. "It was very successful. We agreed on many points and I am hopeful that in future we can succeed further, and finally we can reach a solution, we can find a complete peace in Afghanistan," Stanikzai said.
The talks in Moscow also saw former Afghan president Hamid Karzai present who called the discussions "very satisfactory".
None of these talks have however featured any representative from the Afghan government which raises the concern of actual implementation of the agreement conditions. The Taliban have refused to engage with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani calling him a puppet government.