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Washington-Taliban deal enters ‘next phase’ after US troops ‘depart 5 bases’ – envoy

Washington-Taliban deal enters ‘next phase’ after US troops ‘depart 5 bases’ – envoy

The United States has said its deal with the Taliban has entered the “next phase.” Under the agreement signed in February, Washington pledged to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the middle of next year, in return for the insurgents promising to hold negotiations with the Afghan government to end the decades-old war.

Under phase one, the US said it would reduce troops to 8,600 within 135 days, while completely removing forces from five military bases, AFP reported. The US special representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the deal, tweeted that both sides had reached a “key milestone.”

“The US has worked hard to carry out 1st phase of its commitments under the agreement, including to reduce troops & depart five bases,” he said on Monday. The US’ approach will now be based on certain conditions, Khalilzad said, citing the completion of prisoner releases, reduction of violence, and the start of and progress in intra-Afghan negotiations.

Separately, the Afghan Red Crescent Society said on Tuesday that the country faces a “catastrophe” as growing coronavirus cases stretch the health infrastructure which is already severely weakened by war.