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February 29, 2020 / 6:36 AM / Updated 20 minutes ago

 

U.S.-Taliban set to sign troop withdrawal deal as Pompeo lands in Doha

KABUL/DOHA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Qatar’s capital city, Doha on Saturday to witness the signing of a historic deal with Taliban insurgents in an effort to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Pompeo arrived on a flight from Washington and was due to hold a meeting with the Qatari Emir before attending the signing ceremony.

 

The deal paves the way for the United States to gradually withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. But there are doubts over whether it will lead to a lasting peace as it merely paves the way for talks between the Afghan sides that many expect could be much more complicated.

 

Hours before the deal, the Taliban ordered all its fighters in Afghanistan “to refrain from any kind of attack ... for the happiness of the nation.”

 

“The biggest thing is that we hope the U.S. remain committed to their promises during the negotiation and peace deal,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist group.

 

Mujahid said it was “irritating and provocative” that foreign military aircraft continued to fly over Taliban territory, but militia fighters were following the order to stand-down.

 

[...]

 

For U.S President Donald Trump, the deal represents a chance to make good on his promise to bring U.S. troops home. But security experts have also called it a foreign policy gamble that would give the Taliban international legitimacy.

 

“Today is a monumental day for Afghanistan,” the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said on Twitter. “It is about making peace and crafting a common brighter future. We stand with Afghanistan.”

 

A 31-member Taliban delegation was in Qatar to oversee the signing by their political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

 

Foreign ministers and bureaucrats from Pakistan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan arrived at the venue ahead of the signing ceremony, slated to take place at the Sheraton hotel in Doha.

 

Trump said in a statement on Friday said the deal will pave way for U.S. troop numbers to drop to 8,600 from about 13,000 in the weeks following the deal.

 

Further reductions of Western forces will hinge on the Taliban adhering to a “reduction in violence” pledge, a condition that will be assessed by the United States.

 

[...]

 

But prospects for peace remain uncertain given the next step is reaching agreement with the Afghan government.

 

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Kabul on Saturday, in a move officials and experts said was aimed at reassuring the Afghan government about the United States’ commitment to the country.

 

Under the deal, the Taliban wants 5,000 fighters to be released from Afghan-run jails, but it is not clear whether the Afghan government will agree.

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-taliban/afghans-hope-for-peace-as-u-s-taliban-set-for-troop-withdrawal-deal-idUSKBN20N06R

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February 29, 2020 / 8:16 PM / Updated 12 hours ago

Trump hails Afghanistan deal, plans to meet Taliban leaders soon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday said he would be personally meeting leaders of the Taliban in the near future and rejected criticism of a deal that the United States signed with the insurgents in Afghanistan.

He spoke hours after U.S. and Taliban representatives signed a deal that could pave the way toward a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers and move closer to ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

 

Trump said in a news conference at the White House that the agreement should allow the United States to draw down its troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600. He held out the possibility of withdrawals beyond that number, but said the United States could quickly move forces back into the country if needed.

 

In later remarks at a conservative political conference in suburban Maryland, Trump said if the Taliban lives up to its commitments the war will “be over.”

 

“We can’t be the policeman for the world,” he said.

 

Trump has frequently expressed a desire to put a halt to “endless wars” and has said he has been personally struck by meeting wounded soldiers who are missing limbs on his visits to Walter Reed Medical Center.

 

The president came under sharp criticism for the deal from his former national security adviser, John Bolton, who said in a tweet that “signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population.”

 

“This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally,” he said, referring to former President Barack Obama, Trump’s Democratic predecessor.

 

[...]

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-taliban-trump/trump-hails-afghanistan-deal-plans-to-meet-taliban-leaders-soon-idUSKBN20N0YU

 

Date 01.03.2020

 

'No commitment' to Taliban prisoner exchange: Afghan government

 

A day after the US and the Taliban signed a deal to end the Afghan conflict, Afghanistan's President Ghani has said he will not uphold one of the pact's key agreements — the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Sunday the government has not committed to freeing 5,000 Taliban prisoners, a key demand for the insurgent group. Efforts to push a prisoner exchange were part of a historic pact signed between the US and the Taliban on Saturday.

 

The Afghan government was not involved in the signing of the deal, but did have a delegation witness the event in Doha. Ghani's comments, at a news briefing in Kabul, included that his government made "no commitment" to upholding the prisoner release.

 

"This is the right and the self-will of the people of Afghanistan. It could be included in the agenda of the intra-Afghan talks, but cannot be a prerequisite for talks," he said.

 

The prisoner release was "not in the authority of the US, it is in the authority of the Afghan government," he said.

 

The pact sealed Saturday specified that up to 5,000 jailed Taliban will be released in exchange for up to 1,000 Afghan government captives by March 10.

 

'Cease-fire goal'

 

Ghani confirmed that a seven-day partial reduction in violence in Afghanistan will continue with the aim of a full cease-fire.

 

"The reduction in violence will continue with a goal to reach a full cease-fire," Ghani told reporters.

 

"General [scott] Miller has told Taliban to do so," he added, referring to the US commander in charge of foreign forces in Afghanistan.

 

The president, who is caught up in a political crisis following fraud allegations in his re-election, cast doubt upon upcoming talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government that were agreed to as part of the deal.

 

The Taliban dub the Afghan government a "US puppet" and have been reluctant to establish direct contact with them.

 

[...]

 

https://www.dw.com/en/no-commitment-to-taliban-prisoner-exchange-afghan-government/a-52594411

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I've just watched the following video showing a unit of Marine Force Recon conducting over watch and surveillance missions in Afghanistan. The comments concerning "you've been to Iraq, you'll know what to do in Afghanistan" are most intriguing.

 

Anyway there's a particular weapon showing on the video at 2:43; looks like it has some kind of thermal sight installed, possibly a DMR or standard calibre sniper rifle? It resembles a Barrett MRAD but there are also a number of features which look different on the rifle in the video. I know they customise their firearms in various ways. Can anyone ID the rifle?

 

https://youtu.be/73xihNaDoAI

 

My back feels sore just hearing a list of all the stuff they have to carry with them... :blink:

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Date 21.11.2020

Pompeo to meet Taliban negotiators in Qatar ahead of US troop withdrawal

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to meet negotiators from the Afghan government and the Taliban separately in Qatar’s capital, Doha, which serves as the Taliban's base for diplomacy.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet negotiators from both the Afghan government and the Taliban during his visit to Qatar’s capital, Doha, on Saturday. 

This comes as President Donald Trump’s administration looks to speed up the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan during the last days of his presidential term, which ends with President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. 

The US military announced on Tuesday that Trump would reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan by 2,000 by January 15, leaving just 2,500 in the country. While the Taliban have welcomed this news, NATO allies believe that a hasty exit could hinder the peace process. 

Biden also seeks US troop withdrawal

Biden, in a rare point of agreement, also advocates winding down the Afghanistan war although analysts believe he will not be as wedded to a quick timetable.

Peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were expected to start in March after the US and the group signed a landmark agreement in Qatar, the Taliban's base for diplomacy, on February 29.

However, the Afghan government and insurgents sparred over the modalities of a countrywide ceasefire and the release of Taliban prisoners, which delayed the dialogue until September.

Pompeo is currently on a tour of seven countries in Europe and the Middle East. He is also scheduled to see the Gulf state's ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and the foreign minister in Doha.

In the past six months, the Taliban carried out 53 suicide attacks and 1,250 explosions that left 1,210 civilians dead and 2,500 wounded, interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said this week.

https://www.dw.com/en/pompeo-to-meet-taliban-negotiators-in-qatar-ahead-of-us-troop-withdrawal/a-55683464

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