Retired military general and Fox News analyst Jack Keane told “The Story” an approaching deal between the United States and the Taliban to end nearly 18 years of fighting -- America's longest war -- could happen next week.
Some 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, and their withdrawal “by the end of 2020,” as Keane said, is a central part of the U.S.-Taliban talks.
Keane noted that the U.S., for its part, seeks Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan, which hosted Al Qaeda and its leader Usama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks, will not be used as a launchpad for global terror assaults.
Keane said he predicts that the threat of Al Qaeda will have American armed forces keep between 8,000 to 9,000 troops in Afghanistan.
He added: “For 18 years, we have prevented another attack on the United States.”
The expensive price tag of the war, Keane explained, is money well spent, and it was worth it keeping Americans safe on the home front.
Intra-Afghan talks on the country’s political future are expected to follow an agreement, though the Taliban has refused so far to negotiate with the Afghan government, dismissing it as a U.S. puppet. The insurgent group now controls roughly half of Afghanistan and is at its strongest since its 2001 defeat by a U.S.-led invasion.
In Washington, President Trump told reporters he believes the Taliban insurgents are eager to stop fighting and that they could “very easily” prevent Afghanistan from being a breeding ground for terrorism. The U.S. will, nonetheless, keep a close eye on Taliban influence, he said, even as it thins its troop presence.
“That’s what we have to watch. And we’ll always have intelligence, and we’ll always have somebody there,” Trump said.
The new talks in Qatar, where the insurgent group has a political office, come after a horrific suicide bombing at a wedding in Kabul over the weekend. The blast, claimed by the IS affiliate that has emerged as a brutal threat in recent years, led outraged Afghans to question whether a U.S.-Taliban deal would mean peace for long-suffering civilians.
Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest conflict in 2018, and the United Nations has said more civilians died last year than in the past decade. Afghan officials have said Saturday’s bombing killed more than 63. More than 32,000 civilians have been killed in the past 10 years.