MOSCOW – A Taliban official said on Wednesday that the United States had promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April during talks last month, RIA news agency reported, more than past estimates of the planned pull-out.
There was no immediate reaction from the Pentagon or the U.S. Department of State to the comments from a member of a Taliban delegation visiting Moscow.
But they came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump told Americans his administration had accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan and would be able to reduce U.S. troops there as negotiations advance to end America’s longest war.
U.S. and Taliban delegations met in Qatar in January and are due to meet again in February. A U.S. official at last month’s meeting said significant progress was made, though more talks were needed on U.S. demands for a Taliban cease-fire before any withdrawal and other issues.
“Yes, the Americans told us (last month) that they would withdraw half of their troops from the beginning of February to the end of April,” Abdul Salam Hanafi was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA.
Hanafi said Washington and the Taliban had also agreed that all foreign troops would eventually leave, and that Afghanistan would never be used as a base for attacks on the United States.
“The timeline (of the withdrawal) will be discussed at future meetings,” Hanafi said.
The Taliban militants are in Moscow for talks with Afghan opposition politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai — discussions that the current Afghan government has said is not in the country’s best interests.
A U.S. official said in December that Trump was planning to withdraw more than 5,000, or more than a third, of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.