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Top General Says It’s Too Early for Full Afghanistan Pullout as Taliban Signals Agreement Is Near

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford arrives to testify in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that a full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan would be “premature” at the moment, shortly after the Taliban signaled it might be nearing a peace agreement with U.S. diplomats.

Dunford said withdrawal of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently deployed in Afghanistan, a priority for the Trump administration, will depend on security conditions.

“Right now, it’s our judgment that the Afghans need support to deal with the level of violence that is associated with the insurgency today,” Dunford said at a press briefing. “If an agreement happens in the future, if the security environment changes, then obviously our posture may adjust.”

Dunford did however call for “some type of disruption to the status quo” in Afghanistan.

“I think an agreement that can initiate inter-Afghan dialogue and potentially leading [sic] to a reduction of violence associated with the insurgency is something that’s worth trying,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday, the Taliban issued a statement indicating that it may be closing in on a peace deal with U.S. officials.

“We hope to have good news soon for our Muslim, independence-seeking nation,” said Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen.

The Trump administration’s lead negotiator in the peace talks, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, is currently in Qatar for a ninth round of negotiations with Taliban representatives. One particular sticking point has been the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the U.S.-backed Afghan government, which it regards as illegitimate.

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