Pentagon ‘mindful of looming deadlines’ around troop withdrawals

KABUL (Agencies): Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on Wednesday night Washington has been in constant communication with Afghan officials as it continues to review the February agreement signed between the US and Taliban in Doha last year.
In an off-camera press conference, Kirby said US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also fully aware of the findings of the Afghan Study Group analysis and its recommendations. The report released early this month recommended an immediate diplomatic effort to extend the current May 2021 withdrawal date in order to give the peace process sufficient time to produce an acceptable result.
Kirby meanwhile stated that the Pentagon is “mindful of looming deadlines here and — and everybody shares the sense of — of alacrity when it comes to working our way through this review but we want to do it in a thoughtful, deliberate way, to make sure that we’re — that whatever decisions are made, they’re the best ones, that are in our best national security interests and the — certainly the security interests of our allies and partners, and that includes the Afghan people.” Asked whether Austin would speak directly to President Ashraf Ghani about this, Kirby said: “I don’t have a future conversation to announce here today but obviously we’ll keep you posted as he continues to consult with our allies and partners.”
Kirby also stated that it was “perfectly reasonable when you have a new administration coming in, to want to take a look at the Doha Agreement, which was agreed to before this administration took office.” He said given the stakes in Afghanistan, it was reasonable for the new administration to want to review the agreement and look at the issues of compliance in order to make an informed decision about the best way forward.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. Kirby went on to state “we would hope that people would feel a sense of confidence that we are taking this so seriously; that we want to dive into the details and better understand it, mindful of our security commitments around the world, and particularly, to our Afghan partners.”
This comes just three days after Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said that the US supports a political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan. Following a phone conversation between Blinken and Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) on Saturday about the Afghan peace process, the Secretary of State said: “The U.S. supports progress toward a just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”
Abdullah also said that Afghanistan’s situation and the acceleration of the Afghan peace process was discussed in this conversation. “We exchanged views on the Afghan Peace Process, the 2nd round of the peace talks, the US review of the situation in Afghanistan and ways of accelerating and supporting the peace process,” tweeted About Abdullah.