Pentagon withdraws US troops from five Afghan bases as part of Taliban deal
The US department of defence on Tuesday confirmed that US troops had withdrawn from five military bases and reduced the size of its forces as part of a deal struck with the Taliban in February, US media report.
"US forces in Afghanistan remain in the mid-8000s and five bases formerly occupied by US forces have been transferred to our Afghan partners," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in an official statement.
Washington insists its diluted presence does not impact its "capabilities" and "authorities" to defend its "Allies and partners, and US national interests", he stressed.
While the Taliban have abstained from attacking US forces since signing their landmark deal earlier this year, the militants have stepped up attacks across the country killing hundreds.
The reality was not lost on US Special Representative on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who yesterday tweeted that "large numbers" of Afghans continued to die without reason, something that undermined the group's commitment to reducing violence until a permanent ceasefire was reached with the Afghan government.
"Violence has been high, especially in recent days and weeks," Khalilzad said, condemning a Taliban attack on Monday on a rural office of Afghanistan's intelligence agency that killed 11 security personnel and wounded more than 60 others.
Khalilzad added that the "next phase" of the deal – which would see the US withdraw all troops by the middle of next year in exchange for the Taliban promising hold negotiations with the Afghan government to end the country’s 18-year conflict - was based on certain conditions.
"We will press for completion of prisoner releases, reduction of violence... & start of & progress in intra-Afghan negotiations" he said.
Talks between the Taliban and Kabul hinge on a nearly-completed prisoner exchange agreed in the deal.
Kabul pledged to free some 5,000 Taliban prisoners in a swap that would see the insurgents release around 1,000 Afghan security force captives.
The government has so far released more than 4,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents have freed more than 600 Afghan security personnel.
The Afghan government has said it cannot release about 600 Taliban inmates because they are regarded too dangerous and accused of serious crimes.
Agencies contributed to this report.
Read more: Afghanistan says it will not release 600 'too dangerous' Taliban captives
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