By Lalit K Jha
Washington, Feb 1 (PTI) US President Donald Trump on Friday claimed that the Afghan peace talks, which is expected to bring a breakthrough in the 18-year conflict, are the result of America's military pressure on the Taliban.
Last month, Trump had said regional countries like Russia and India should play a more active role in resolving the Afghan conflict.
"We spend USD 50 billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace after 18 long years," Trump tweeted.
Reiterating that the wars in Syria and Afghanistan must end, he said, "I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the "Endless Wars" of unlimited spending and death...these wars must finally end."
Trump's comments came hours after US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad defended his talks with the Taliban and cautioned against a rush to judgment.
While Khalilzad said his nearly week-long meeting with Taliban officials yielded "significant progress," Afghan President Ghani expressed concerns about the US troop withdrawal from the war-torn country.
Though Trump has not announced a timeline for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, he has repeatedly said in the past that he wants to get the soldiers back.
"Syria was loaded with ISIS until I came along. We will soon have destroyed 100% of the Caliphate, but will be watching them closely. It is now time to start coming home and, after many years, spending our money wisely. Certain people must get smart!" the president said.
Backing Trump, Senator Rand Paul also sought quick withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
"I stand with you. Time to declare victory, end these wars and focus on rebuilding our own homeland. Don’t listen to the naysayers in the swamp, you are making the right decision!” Paul tweeted.
According to Scott Worden, Director of Afghanistan and Central Asia Programmes at the US Institute of Peace (USIP), the reports of a possible troop withdrawal added urgency to negotiations with the Taliban and demonstrated that the US was serious about offers to remove troops in exchange for counterterrorism security guarantees.
"On the other hand, troop withdrawal rumours created a perception in the region that the US may be willing to withdraw even without a peace deal, which reduced the value of that bargaining chip," he said.
Khalilzad has made it clear that there is no formal agreement in place yet, and that "nothing is agreed until all issues are agreed", including a ceasefire and direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, Wordon said.
"This formula maintains an incentive for the Taliban to deliver on political issues so they can get what they want on troops without further fighting," he added. PTI LKJ SCY