Taleban say they expect Biden to abide by Afghan pullout deal

In this photo taken on March 2, Afghan Taleban militants and villagers celebrate the peace deal. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL (AFP) - The Taleban said on Sunday (Nov 8) they expect the next US president, Mr Joe Biden, to abide by the deal signed with his predecessor Donald Trump's administration that paved the way for withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan.

In February, Mr Trump's administration signed a deal with the Taleban to fully disengage from Afghanistan in exchange for several security guarantees and a commitment from the insurgents to stop trans-national Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from operating in the country.

However, Mr Biden's victory in the US election has raised hopes among ordinary citizens that he might slow what some see as a too-hasty withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

The Taleban said they expected Mr Biden's government to stick to the deal signed on Feb 29.

"We signed the agreement with the American government not a person," Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taleban, told AFP.

"We hope that the process that has started will not be weakened, but rather strengthened."

The US-Taleban deal agreed to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.

The withdrawal of troops has been a cornerstone of Mr Trump's plans to end America's longest war.

Since the signing of the deal, the US military has shut several bases and pulled out thousands of troops as agreed.

That deal, however, excluded the Afghan government from negotiations, and also saw almost 6,000 Taleban prisoners released - much to the displeasure of the authorities.

Days after the release of prisoners, peace talks between the Taleban and Afghan government to end the war were launched in the Qatari capital Doha.

The talks, which commenced on Sept 12, have failed to make any significant progress so far.

"The ongoing intra-Afghan talks is part of the agreement (with the US) and shall continue unaffected," Naeem said.

Despite the Taleban and Afghan government engaging in talks, violence on the ground has only surged, with the Taleban stepping up daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday that ties between Kabul and Washington are expected to deepen in areas of counter-terrorism and building peace as he congratulated Mr Biden on his election victory.

Kabul resident Salim, meanwhile, was hopeful that Mr Biden would withdraw forces in a "responsible" manner.

"Biden thinks more about Afghanistan. Even if he withdraws forces from the country, he would take a responsible decision (about it)," said Mr Salim, who goes by only one name as many Afghans do.

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