Taleban reaffirm commitment to US deal

KABUL (AFP) – The Taleban reaffirmed their commitment to a February deal to draw down the war in Afghanistan during a call with United States (US) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the group’s spokesman has said.

The discussion came as US President Donald Trump faces mounting pressure to explain why he did nothing after being reportedly told that Russian spies had offered and paid cash to Taleban-linked militants for killing American soldiers.

The Taleban have denied that their fighters received any Russian bounties, and the group’s Qatar-based chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar reiterated their pledge not to strike against the US. Baradar told Pompeo that “according to the agreement, we do not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against the US and other countries”, Taleban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Monday in a statement.

The New York Times had reported last week that Trump had been told about the alleged Russian bounties but he did nothing in response.

Trump denied being informed of the assessment while the White House said the claim had been kept from him because the intelligence underpinning it was unverified.

But another report from the Times on Monday said the president had received a report about the alleged Russian bounties as early as February. That month, the US had pledged to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by mid-2021.