Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond May deadline – report   

U.S. troops wait for their helicopter flight at an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in Logar province, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2018. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, Reuters cited four senior NATO officials as saying.

The administration of then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgent’s fulfilling certain security guarantees.

“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters.

“Conditions have not been met,” the source said. “And with the new U.S. administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”

Plan on what will happen after April are now being considered and likely to be a top issue at a key NATO meeting in February, Reuters cited the NATO sources as saying.

Violence has remained high, despite peace talks between Afghan government and the Taliban which started in September in Doha.

“No NATO ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, but we have been clear that our presence remains conditions-based,” said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu. “Allies continue to assess the overall situation and to consult on the way forward.”

She added that about 10,000 troops, including Americans, are stationed in Afghanistan.

Kabul and some foreign governments and agencies accuse the Taliban of failing to meet conditions due to escalated violence and a failure to cut ties with militant groups such as Al Qaeda, which the Taliban denies.

Reuters cited a Pentagon spokesman as saying the Taliban have not met their commitments but Washington remained committed to the process and had not decided on future troop levels.

A Feb. 17-18 meeting of NATO defense ministers will be a chance for a newly empowered NATO to determine how the process would be shaped, a senior European diplomat told Reuters.

“With the new administration coming in there will be a more cooperative result, NATO countries will have a say.”

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