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Taliban Warns of 'Consequences' Amid Reports That Biden Has Scrapped Trump Pledge on Afghan Pullout

© AP Photo / Sgt. Justin UpdegraffThis 10 June 2017 photo provided by Operation Resolute Support, US Soldiers with Task Force Iron manoeuvre an M-777 howitzer, so it can be towed into position at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan
This 10 June 2017 photo provided by Operation Resolute Support, US Soldiers with Task Force Iron manoeuvre an M-777 howitzer, so it can be towed into position at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan - Sputnik International
The Trump administration reached a peace deal with the Taliban last February, with the agreement envisioning a complete pullout of foreign troops from Afghanistan by May 2021, intra-Afghan peace talks, and a pledge by the militant group not to allow the country to become a haven for terrorists.

The Biden administration has nixed its predecessor's commitment to pull all NATO forces out of Afghanistan by May, Reuters has reported, citing four senior NATO officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end," one of the officials said.

In mid-January, the Pentagon confirmed that it had met Trump's order to shave US troop numbers in Afghanistan down to 2,500 troops total. The draw-down came despite efforts by Congress to freeze the withdrawal until a report 'assessing the impact' of such a pullout was completed. Trump fired Defence Secretary Mark Esper several days after the November election, replacing him with Christopher Miller over disagreements on plans to withdraw US forces from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Conditions have not been met," Reuters' source said. "And with the new US administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy."

The US and its NATO allies have been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. After invading the Central Asian nation in late 2001 to topple the Taliban regime for its harbouring of Saudi al-Qaeda terror leader Osama bin Laden, NATO spent years hunting the man in the war-torn country. In 2011, he was discovered living comfortably in a secure compound in a wealthy neighbourhood in Abbottabad in neighbouring Pakistan, and was killed in a SEAL Team Six raid. Photos or other material evidence of his death were never released.

Reuters' NATO sources said the issue of Afghanistan will likely be a key topic for discussion at an alliance meeting next month.

U.S. President Donald Trump salutes as he boards Air Force One at after visiting the U.S.-Mexico border wall, in Harlingen, Texas, U.S., January 12, 2021. - Sputnik International
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NATO estimates that about 10,000 foreign troops remain stationed in Afghanistan, with the troop numbers expected to remain unchanged until after May despite commitments outlined by Trump before he left office.

A State Department spokesman insisted that Biden remains committed to bringing a "responsible end to the 'forever wars'", but was also adamant about "protecting Americans from terrorist and other threats".

Taliban Feels Betrayed, Warns of 'Consequences'

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the news agency that the militant group remains committed to the peace deal signed in Doha last February, and doesn't want to hear any more "excuses" from NATO.

"No doubt if the Doha deal is not implemented there will be consequences, and the blame will be upon that side which does not honour the deal," he said. "Our expectations are also that NATO will think to end this war and avoid more excuses for prolonging the war in Afghanistan," Mujahid said.

The war in Afghanistan has cost the US over $2 trillion, and the lives of more than 2,350 military personnel. Hundreds of NATO coalition troops, over 62,000 Afghan security personnel and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have also been killed in the war.

The NATO war in Afghanistan is just part of the war-torn country's generations-long conflict, which began in 1978 after a pro-Soviet government took power in Kabul, prompting a CIA intervention and the funnelling of billions of dollars in military and financial assistance to the Mujahideen - precursors of the Taliban. Moscow was sucked into intervening in the conflict in late 1979 in an attempt to save the Kabul government, sparking the decade-long Soviet-Afghan War, which ended in 1989 with the complete pullout of Soviet forces. In 1992, the Afghan government collapsed, and for much of the 1990s, the Taliban and other militias divided up the country, turning it into a feudal failed state.

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