U.S. closes 5 military bases in Afghanistan as part of Taliban peace deal

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The United States has closed five military bases in Afghanistan as part of an agreement signed with the Taliban more than four months ago, an American official confirmed to Fox News.

The deal promised to remove all U.S. forces from bases in the first 135 days, a milestone reached on Tuesday, President Trump’s special representative to the talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, said.

“The United States has worked hard to complete the first phase of its commitments under the agreement, including reducing forces and leaving five bases. NATO troops have descended in proportional numbers, “said Khalilzad on Twitter.

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Afghan media Tolo reported that the five closed US bases are located in the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika and Laghman, in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Bagram’s largest US bases outside Kabul and Kandahar airfield in southern Afghanistan remain open.

US soldiers patrol an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in Logar Province, Afghanistan, August 7, 2018. REUTERS / Omar Sobhani

Another major stipulation of the peace agreement negotiated in Doha in February between the Taliban and the United States is the large-scale withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

The United States has reduced the number of soldiers in the region to 8,600, from a peak of more than 100,000 in 2010.

Despite the reduction of American troops under the agreement, violence between the Taliban and Afghan forces has peaked in recent months, according to the Afghan government.

Just one day before the base closed, the Taliban detonated a car bomb at a government facility in Aybak, the capital of Samangan province, near the office of the National Security Directorate (NDS), a security agency. key intelligence, killing 11 security personnel and injuring at least 63 civilians, including children.

Afghan security personnel inspect the site of a car bomb attack on an intelligence complex in Aybak, the capital of Samangan province in northern Afghanistan, Monday, July 13, 2020. Taliban insurgents have launched a complex attack on the complex which began with a suicide attack, officials said. (Photo AP)

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The spike in violence across the country targeting Afghan forces is likely a tactic to force the government to release nearly 600 additional Taliban prisoners before the group considers measures to end the nearly two-decade-long war in the region.

“We condemn today’s attack. The use of major explosives to detonate a vehicle in a provincial capital is unacceptable and will strengthen those who oppose peace and play in the hands of spoilers. All parties must reduce violence, “Khalilzad tweeted on Monday.

“The violence has been high, especially in recent days and weeks. Afghans continue to die in large numbers for no reason. The Taliban attack today in a provincial capital contradicts their commitment to reduce violence until a permanent ceasefire is reached in intra-Afghan talks, ”he added.

The government has released 4,199 Taliban prisoners and the 779 Taliban members of pro-government forces, according to figures provided by the two sides, Al Jazeera reported.

Despite prisoner exchanges from both sides, as called for in the US-Taliban agreement, talks for a mutual peace agreement have stalled, delaying its launch which was due to start in March.

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“As we envision the next phase of implementation under the agreement, our approach will remain based on conditions,” said Khalilzad. “We will press for the release of prisoners, the reduction of violence, the fulfillment of commitments made in the framework of the CT and the start and progress of intra-Afghan negotiations. “

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