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As US Troops Are Reduced to 8,600, in Line with Taliban Deal, 17 Military Personnel Are Killed in Northern Afghanistan

RFE, June 20, 2020



Afghan National Army soldiers keep watch at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, May 2020



Top General Says U.S. Troop Cut In Afghanistan Hits 8,600 Target In Line With Taliban Deal

June 18, 2020 22:44 GMT


General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, says the U.S. has reduced its troop presence in Afghanistan to the level agreed with the Taliban in February.

The United States has reduced its troop presence in Afghanistan to levels agreed to as part of a February deal with the Taliban, the general who oversees the region says.

"We agreed to go to the mid-8,000 range within 135 days," General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said at an event hosted by the Aspen Institute think tank on June 18. "We're at that number now."

The February deal provides for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and is intended to pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Under the deal, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021.

McKenzie said a full U.S. troop withdrawal was "conditions-based” on the Taliban meeting their commitments.

A key plank of the agreement requires the Taliban to sever all ties with extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) that could launch attacks on the United States and its allies.

McKenzie said the Taliban was already at odds with the IS group.

"What we need to see is what they're going to do against Al-Qaeda," he said, referring to the group responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. "And we need to see that in deeds and not words."

The Taliban has "not yet completely made that case," he said. "There remains an opportunity for them to do it, but time is now beginning to grow short."

UN report released on June 1 said the Taliban still maintained close ties with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

"Relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network, and [Al-Qaeda] remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy, and intermarriage," said the report sent by independent UN sanctions monitors to the UN Security Council.

The report added that the Taliban "regularly consulted" with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and "offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties."

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad downplayed the UN report, saying it largely covered a period before the February agreement.

Taliban militants control about half of Afghanistan's territory and have continued to carry out attacks since the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed.

The government has said that in recent weeks some 422 Afghan personnel have been killed or wounded across the country in at least 220 Taliban attacks.

IS militants have also carried a number of high-profile attacks, killing dozens of people.

An attack on May 24 on a maternity hospital in Kabul on May 24 killed was described as "horrific" by Doctors Without Borders, which last week announced it would cease activities at the hospital.

Afghan authorities have put the blame on the Taliban, which has denied involvement, while representatives of foreign governments pointed the finger at Afghanistan's Islamic State affiliate.

With reporting by AFP and AP


Afghans Say Taliban Attacks Kill At Least 17 Military Personnel In Northern Provinces

June 17, 2020 09:56 GMT

By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan


Afghan officials say Taliban fighters have attacked a checkpoint in the northern province of Jawzjan, killing 12 security force members.

Abdul Marouf Azar, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said on June 17 that five others were wounded in the attack that occurred at dawn in the Aqcha district. The militants have taken four soldiers hostage following the attack, Azar said, adding that the militants also suffered casualties. "Five Taliban were also killed and 10 others were wounded in the clashes," he said.

The Defense Ministry confirmed the attack and said six of its soldiers were among the dead.

A Taliban spokesman said the group was responsible for the attack, but he said the death toll was higher, though he did not elaborate.

In another northern province, Kunduz, militants attacked an Afghan National Army checkpoint on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kunduz city, killing five soldiers, according to the provincial police chief, Faqir Muhammad Jawzjani.

At least seven others were wounded in the incident, he added.

Meanwhile, the explosion of a mortar shell in the southeastern province of Ghazni left four children dead, while wounding three others, the provincial governor's spokesman, Arif Noori, said.

The children found the shell in the Deh Yak district and started playing with it when it went off, Noori said.

The government has said that in recent weeks some 422 Afghan personnel have been killed or wounded across the country in at least 220 Taliban attacks.

The Taliban says it remains committed to an agreement they signed with the United States in February.

The landmark deal provides for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and is intended to pave the way for peace talks between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

With reporting by dpa and AFP


At Least 17 Killed In Attacks Across Afghanistan

June 13, 2020 13:46 GMT

Afghan officials say at least 17 people have been killed in a string of attacks across the country.

There was no claim of responsibility for the series of attacks on June 13.

Violence in the country has spiked in recent weeks despite progress toward the launch of direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government over a permanent cease-fire and future power-sharing deal.

Gunmen killed eight people in the eastern province of Khost, the spokesman for the provincial police chief said.

Spokesman Adel Haidar said Abdul Wali Ekhlas, a candidate in last year's parliamentary elections, was among those killed in the Ali Sher district.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

In the eastern province of Logar, a local official said gunmen stormed a house in the provincial capital, Pul-e Alam, killing a woman and her three daughters.

In the northeastern province of Badakhshan, the provincial spokesman for the police chief said a pro-government militia commander and three of his men were killed by gunmen.

Meanwhile, a cleric was gunned down by gunmen in the northern province of Takhar.

On June 12, a pro-government cleric was killed in an explosion in the capital, Kabul.

Also on June 12, an official in the central province of Ghor said Taliban militants stormed a police checkpoint and killed 10 police officers.

Based on reporting by dpa, AP, and AFP 


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