- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The top U.S. diplomat to the Afghan crisis told NATO leaders Wednesday that the U.S. military would not leave the alliance behind should the Trump administration opt for a full withdrawal from the war-torn nation.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad made that pledge to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and other top alliance leaders during a briefing Wednesday.

“We went to Afghanistan together, we will adjust our presence together and if we leave, we will leave together,” Mr. Khalilzad said in a Twitter post, just after Wednesday’s meeting. It was the fifth time Mr. Khalilzad, who has led controversial, closed-door direct talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency in recent months, has briefed NATO leadership on the Afghan negotiations.

Mr. Stoltenberg said “one essential condition” of a successful negotiation “is that we are all on the same page and that we all push in the same direction to secure peace.”

Wednesday’s meeting came a week after the Pentagon ruled out any consideration of a full withdrawal of all 14,000 U.S. troops still deployed in Afghanistan.

“No one has suggested the U.S. is going to leave Afghanistan until our counterterrorism interests are addressed. … That is non-negotiable,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a May 29 speech in Washington.

U.S. negotiators have reportedly agreed to a draft timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the country. In response, the Taliban have agreed to cut all ties with terror groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

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