Trump tweet gave Taliban boost in negotiations: Afghan official
A tweet by US President Donald Trump about an American withdrawal from Afghanistan could have inadvertently handed the Taliban a golden bargaining chip in negotiations with the Kabul government.
Trump tweeted last week: "We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!"
It came just hours after talks with his national security adviser, who said that the US force in Taliban could be reduced to 2,500 by next year.
A leading Afghan official said that Trump's premature announcement - which was welcomed by the Taliban - could provide the militant group with an upper hand in negotiations.
"Nobody has given any clarity," Abdullah Abdullah, the head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation told The Financial Times, "[they] might see it in their advantage".
He warned that the message could see the Taliban prepare for a take-over of the whole of Afghanistan, once the Americans withdraw.
The US and Taliban agreed a deal in February which would see American troops leave Afghanistan by mid-2021, in exchange for counter-terrorism guarantees and negotiations on power-sharing.
Intra-Taliban talks in Qatar have now started, which will decide the eventual political make-up of the country.
Despite the negotiations, there has been a flare-up in violence between the Taliban and US-backed government.
On Thursday, the US envoy to Afghanistan said that the Taliban had promised to reduce casualties in Afghanistan.
"At present too many Afghans are dying. With the re-set, we expect that number to drop significantly," Zalmay Khalilzad wrote on Twitter.
Afghanistan has been embroiled in conflict for decades and suffered the intervention of foreign powers, including Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the US-led invasion in 2001.
The Taliban has fought a nearly two-decade campaign against the US since then.