KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States would pull 5,400 troops from Afghanistan within 135 days of signing an agreement with the Taliban, the American special envoy told Afghan leaders on Monday.
That pullout would be the start of what is expected to be the gradual withdrawal of all 14,000 United States troops that could end America’s longest running war.
The American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has led nearly a year of talks with the Taliban, told an Afghan news channel in Kabul that the United States had reached an agreement “in principle” with the Afghan insurgents, but he cautioned that final approval rested with President Trump.
“In principle, on paper, yes we have reached an agreement — that it is done,” Mr. Khalilzad told the Afghan channel ToloNews. “But it is not final until the president of the United States also agrees to it.”
Afghan leaders aware of Mr. Khalilzad’s discussions in Kabul said the most likely sticking point for Mr. Trump would be the timeline under which the rest of the American troops would leave Afghanistan.
Mr. Khalilzad has not shared those details, but Western officials have previously suggested the timeline for the full withdrawal of American troops would probably be 16 months, if the Taliban meet certain conditions.
The deal is intended to immediately reduce violence in several provinces where the American troops would start to leave, though the exact nature of that reduction — whether it would essentially be an expanded cease-fire — was not clear. Mr. Khalilzad is also said to have told Afghan leaders that, as part of the agreement, the United States would reserve the right to assist Afghan forces should they be attacked by the Taliban.
The details on the timing of the first American withdrawal are the first concrete elements of the tightly guarded agreement with the Taliban to emerge publicly.
The initial troop withdrawal would mean the closing of five military bases or the transfer of those bases to the Afghan government.
A deal with the Taliban, if announced, could be the beginning of an end to the nearly two decades of American military presence in Afghanistan, which began with the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The war has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans and more than 3,500 American and coalition soldiers.
But a deal between the Taliban and the United States is only a first step of what will remain a complicated peace process, opening the path for the insurgents to negotiate the political future of the country with other Afghans.
Mr. Khalilzad, who arrived in Kabul on Sunday after marathon talks with the insurgents in Qatar, has provided full details on the agreement to President Ashraf Ghani, according to the president’s spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi. The Afghan president has been skeptical of the talks with the Taliban, which have so far excluded his government.
Mr. Sediqqi said at a news conference on Monday that the American envoy had met twice with Mr. Ghani since arriving in Kabul over the weekend. The Afghan president had asked for time to study the American agreement.
Afghan officials have provided conflicting details about whether Mr. Ghani was given a copy of the agreement, or details from it were shared with him.
As American diplomats and Taliban officials have neared a deal in their negotiations, violence has intensified in Afghanistan. The Taliban have launched assaults on two northern Afghan cities in two days.
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