US calls for a UN vote on Taliban deal: diplomats

US calls for a UN vote on Taliban deal: diplomats

Trump administration seeks Security Council endorsement on deal as rival Afghan leaders claim presidency in Kabul.

The United States has called for a Tuesday vote at the UN Security Council to endorse Washington's deal with the Taliban that is supposed to pave the way to peace in Afghanistan, diplomats said.

The US military has begun withdrawing troops as part of the pullout agreed in the February 29 agreement with the Taliban.

The request for a UN vote came after negotiations on a draft resolution, diplomats said on Monday.

The deal signed in Qatar is aimed at ending the US's longest war, fought in Afghanistan since 2001.

The agreement seeks the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in 14 months.

It also secured a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan would not be used as a launching pad for activities that would threaten the security of the US in the future.

Intra-Afghan negotiations are also set to begin by Tuesday to work out a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.

About 14,000 US troops and approximately 17,000 troops from 39 NATO allies and partner countries are stationed in Afghanistan in a non-combatant role.

The US-Taliban talks were launched in 2018 as part of a push by US President Donald Trump's administration to strike a deal with the armed group, which has been fighting the US-led forces in Afghanistan since being toppled from power in 2001.

Ghani-Abdullah rivalry

The agreement also proposes an intra-Afghan dialogue with the government in Kabul and the release of 5,000 Taliban members from prison - although that part of the deal remains in contention.

The Taliban has so far refused to speak to the Western-backed Afghan government, saying it is a "puppet regime".

The intra-Afghan talks are to begin on March 10 but no specific details have been given.

Those talks are also now in peril, after Afghanistan's rival politicians Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah held competing presidential inaugurations on Monday.

The bitter feud between Ghani and his former chief executive Abdullah raised fresh fears for the country's fragile democracy as the US announced it had begun withdrawing troops.

The presidential election was held in September, but repeated delays and accusations of widespread voter fraud meant that Ghani, the incumbent, was only narrowly declared the winner in February - sparking a furious response from Abdullah, who promised to form his own parallel government.

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and General Scott Miller, who heads US forces in Afghanistan, attended Ghani's inauguration, which was interrupted by at least two loud explosions.

Minutes later, in another corner of the sprawling palace compound, a suit-clad Abdullah also inaugurated himself as president, vowing to "safeguard the independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity" of Afghanistan.

The Taliban now controls or holds influence over more Afghan territory than at any point since 2001 and has carried out near-daily attacks against military outposts throughout the country.

Trump has long expressed his eagerness to bring US soldiers home and end the country's longest war as he seeks re-election in 2020.

More than 100,000 Afghans have been killed or wounded since 2009 when the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting casualties.

 

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