(CNSNews.com) – U.S. envoy for Afghanistan peace efforts Zalmay Khalilzad said Monday the U.S. and the Taliban have reached an agreement in principle on a draft deal that will see 5,000 U.S. troops leave within about five months if the Taliban meets its commitments.
Khalilzad told the TOLO News television station in Kabul that under the deal, the troops would be withdrawn from five bases. He noted that the draft agreement was not final until President Trump has approved it.
As the television station aired the interview, the terrorist group launched a suicide truck bomb and gunfire attack in the east of the city which the Interior Ministry said killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 110 others.
The ministry said Special Forces troops had engaged and killed five gunmen.
TOLO News said the attack took place in the compound known as the Green Village, where many foreign offices, agencies and residences are based. The compound is near the Green Zone, a fortified area where foreign embassies are located.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujadid in a statement described the deadly attack as “a massive martyr attack on foreign invaders,” and said that according to available information, “dozens of foreign invaders and domestic slaves” had been killed and wounded.
He said the Green Village compound was a base for “mercenaries, spies and other hirelings” and home to “mostly foreigners and a number of domestic traitors.”
“The attack is a response to the crimes that have recently been committed by American invaders and their domestic puppets in various parts of the country,” the terrorist spokesman charged.
Khalilzad has held nine rounds of talks over the past year with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, in a bid to negotiate an end to America’s longest war.
Before he headed from Doha to Kabul on Sunday to report on progress to Afghan leaders, Khalilzad tweeted, “We are at the threshold of an agreement that will reduce violence and open the door for Afghans to sit together to negotiate an honorable & sustainable peace and a unified, sovereign Afghanistan that does not threaten the United States, its allies, or any other country.”
The main elements of a deal have been spelled out repeatedly, and involve a nationwide ceasefire; the withdrawal of U.S. troops; and the Taliban renouncing al-Qaeda and pledging not to allow Afghanistan to become once again a safe haven for terrorists.
Separate talks between the Taliban and Afghan government are meant to decide on the future of the country, but the U.S. and other Western have governments have also long called for the Taliban to agree to abide by the constitution of Afghanistan, including its protections for women and minorities.
The U.S. currently has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. Almost 8,500 of them comprise about half of a NATO-led mission to “train, advise and assist” Afghan forces, with the other half of that mission coming from almost 40 partner countries.
The remaining U.S. troops are deployed in counterterrorism operations. Fourteen U.S. soldiers and Marines have been killed in combat in Afghanistan this year, most of them Special Forces personnel.
Over the summer Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced the hope that a U.S.-Taliban peace deal could be reached by September 1, ahead of twice-postponed presidential elections, now scheduled for September 28.