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U.S. And The Taliban Sign Historic Agreement

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The United States and the Taliban signed a deal today calling for the withdrawal of American and NATO military forces from Afghanistan within 14 months. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Doha in Qatar, where the deal was signed.

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DIAA HADID, BYLINE: It was a remarkable sight - around two dozen turbaned Taliban followers cheering as their senior negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed an agreement with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad that seeks to end a war that's claimed tens of thousands of lives. The essence of the deal echoes what the U.S. demanded of the Taliban soon after the Sept. 11 attacks - to hand over al-Qaida members they were harboring. Nearly two decades later, the Taliban agreed not to harbor militants or militant groups that seek to target the U.S. and its allies.

In return, America will draw down some 4,000 troops in the next 135 days. They'll work to lift sanctions on Taliban leaders and help mediate a prisoner swap between the insurgents and the Afghan government. The drawdown and the prisoner swap already being negotiated through channels in Qatar, the Gulf state that's long tried to mediate an end to this conflict. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was on hand to witness the signing of the deal, said it was realistic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE POMPEO: We are seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation.

HADID: He emphasized that the deal was conditioned based.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POMPEO: If the Taliban do not uphold their commitments, President Trump and his team would not hesitate to do what we must do to protect American lives. If, on the other hand, the Taliban abide by their promises, the United States will undertake a responsible conditions-based troop withdrawal.

HADID: And Baradar, the lead Taliban negotiator, said they were committed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MULLAH ABDUL GHANI BARADAR: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: Baradar's short speech also underscored the complications of this deal, which calls for the Taliban to begin negotiations with other Afghans to cement a cease-fire and find a political resolution to the country's long running conflict. As Baradar spoke, he called on all Afghan factions to build a strong Islamic system together.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARADAR: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: That could mean peeling back hard-won rights for women in particular, and members of the Afghan government say they won't accept that. But they'll have to find a resolution together. And although a deal's now been signed, there's still no clarity on where Afghans will meet, who will negotiate on the government side or even the agenda. They're meant to gather on March 10, but diplomats caution that it could be pushed back. In the meantime, though, a senior Taliban official said the insurgents were simply looking forward to end this war. The man, who requested his name not be used because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media, once had a role very much imbibed in this conflict. He was a translator for Osama bin Laden. Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Doha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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