Australia welcomes US-Taliban agreement on Afghanistan troop withdrawal

Australia has urged the to negotiate with the Afghan government “in good faith” as it welcomes the withdrawal of US forces from the war-ravaged country.

The foreign minister, Marise Payne, and the defence minister, Linda Reynolds, issued a joint statement on Sunday welcoming

Forty-one Australians have been killed in the long-running conflict, along with more than 100,000 Afghanis and 2,500 Americans.

About 400 Australian troops remain in the country.

Payne said the government was pleased that the Afghan government and the US had agreed on next steps, including direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban on a permanent ceasefire.

The agreement also includes measures to prevent international terrorist organisations including al-Qaida and Daesh from operating in .

“Australia supports agreements and processes that aim to bring peace to Afghanistan after decades of conflict,” the statement said. “We call on the Taliban to continue to reduce violence and enter into negotiations with the Afghan government in good faith.

“Terrorism will continue to present a threat to Afghanistan. The security and stability of Afghanistan will be vital in containing the threat of international terrorism, as well as addressing people and narcotics smuggling.”

As part of the deal that will see the withdrawal of US troops within 14 months, the Taliban has agreed to sever ties with al-Qaida and to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government that it has derided as a puppet of the US.

When asked whether Australia’s involvement in the conflict had been “worthwhile”, the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, said there had been “many facets” to Australia’s engagement.

“Australians have fought alongside our allies for many years in an effort to provide a brighter future for Afghanistan,” he told ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday. We have done an enormous amount in terms of intelligence-collection in Afghanistan, in Iraq, elsewhere across Syria, for example, and the collection of that intelligence has stopped terrorist attacks taking place in the West including in Australia, in Indonesia and elsewhere.”

Payne said the government was proud of the achievements of the Australian Defence Force and other officials who had served in Afghanistan since the war was declared in 2001 following the September 11 attacks in the US.

The government would now work with the Nato-led Resolute Support Mission to ensure Australia’s contribution remained “appropriate” to addressing the challenges facing Afghanistan, while preserving “gains” such as the empowerment of women and girls.

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Source : theguardian[dot]com