MONITORING (SW) – Nine former senior U.S. diplomats on Tuesday warned that Afghanistan could slide into an all-out civil war and once again become a sanctuary for terrorists if the Trump administration withdrew all U.S. forces without a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
The former ambassadors and envoys, who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations dating back to 2001, wrote in a commentary on the Atlantic Council think tank website that the administration needed to avoid a hasty exit to ensure the Islamic State and other extremists are not given more space to operate and to avoid undermining the Afghan people’s chance to live under a democratic government.
"A major troop withdrawal must be contingent on a final peace," the former diplomats wrote. "The initial U.S. drawdown should not go so far or so fast that the Taliban believe that they can achieve military victory."
This comes as Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said the United States and the Taliban had clinched an agreement "in principle" pending approval from President Donald Trump. The deal would see an initial withdrawal of 5,000 American troops within 135 days, he has said.
In their commentary, the former diplomats said that "there is an outcome far worse than the status quo, namely a return to the total civil war that consumed Afghanistan as badly as the war with the Russians and something that could follow a breakdown in negotiations if we remove too much support from the Afghan state."
Meanwhile, Sediq Sediqqui, spokesman for Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has expressed concerns in connection with the peace deal between the U.S. and Taliban. "The Afghan government is ... concerned and we, therefore, would like further clarity on this document to completely analyze its dangers and negative consequences and avoid the dangers”, he said in a series of tweets.
This comes as the top U.S. peace negotiator, Khalilzad, has said at least 5000 U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan in the first phase of the agreement.