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US Troop Withdrawal Could Have Negative Consequences, Kabul Says

Trump's announcement to bring home U.S. troops, shown here patrolling with Afghan forces in Nangarhar Province, by Christmas undermines the peace process, according to officials.

A senior Afghan politician said on October 8 that Afghanistan needs time to analyse the U.S. troop withdrawal announcement but added that premature withdrawal would have negative consequences for the country.

Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, was responding to the surprise announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump that the remaining U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan would be home by Christmas.

"It will take a little bit [of] time for us to digest it," Abdullah said at an event at a think tank in New Delhi. "It will happen one day, of course, and Afghanistan should be able to stand on its own feet, but if it is premature, it will have its consequences."

The Afghan presidential palace has remained tight-lipped about the announcement. But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance should decide collectively to leave together "when the time is right," based on the security situation on the ground.

"NATO is in Afghanistan to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists," he stressed in Brussels on October 8.

Meanwhile, the Taliban militant group welcomed Trump's announcement as a "positive step."

The Taliban "welcomes these remarks and considers it a positive step for the implementation of the agreement signed between The IEA and the U.S.," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement, using an acronym for the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The United States signed an agreement with the Taliban on February 29 that provides for a gradual withdrawal of all NATO forces from Afghanistan within 14 months.

In return, the Taliban agreed to peace talks with Afghanistan's government, which began on September 12. The group committed to renounce terrorism.

Since the agreement, the Taliban has not killed any international soldiers but has intensified attacks against Afghan forces. Fighting in the country persists, as the Taliban continue to reject a cease-fire with Kabul despite the start of the peace negotiations.