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Taliban Says Closing Afghan War Needs 'Actions Not Words' From Trump

FILE - In this photo taken on Feb. 6, 2019, the Twitter page of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid is pictured on a computer monitor in the newsroom at Maiwand TV station in Kabul.

U.S. President Donald Trump in the State of the Union address has endorsed peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying his administration is working to end America’s longest war to bring troops back home from that country.

The Afghan insurgent group swiftly responded to Tuesday night’s remarks by Trump, saying “practical steps and not words” from the American leader would help end the 18-year-old conflict.

President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 4, 2020
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 4, 2020

In his speech to U.S. lawmakers, Trump praised his troops deployed to Afghanistan for making “tremendous progress” and said “peace talks are underway” in a reference to months of U.S.-Taliban negotiations being hosted by Qatar.“

We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home!,” Trump said. “I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them innocent. It is also not our function to serve other nations as a law enforcement agency,” the president reiterated.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA when asked for his group’s reaction to Trump’s statement that the Afghan war is not in anyone’s interest.“

We also want that America closes this war to bring its occupation (of Afghanistan) to an end and let Afghans freely decide their future,” Mujahid said. “But it is important that actions must speak louder than rhetoric and promises,” the spokesman insisted.

U.S. and Taliban representatives have been holding meetings for more than a year, trying to negotiate a peace deal that would set the stage for a gradual withdrawal of roughly 13,000 American troops from the country.

If signed, the proposed U.S.-Taliban agreement would also seek an immediate resumption of Taliban-Afghan negotiations on a permanent nationwide cease-fire and future power-sharing in post-war Afghanistan.

But the dialogue has suffered repeated setbacks in recent months, with both sides accusing the other of stalling the process.

The Trump administration is demanding a “significant and lasting” reduction in insurgent violence before concluding the deal, while the Taliban has refused to go beyond its proposed week-long scaling back of operations until the two adversaries in the deadly conflict sign the truce.

The United Nations says the war in Afghanistan has killed or injured more than 100,000 civilians, a majority of them women and children, since 2009 alone, and non-combatants continue to suffer record levels of casualties.

The U.S. military has lost about 2,400 personnel since the war started in 2001 and has cost Washington around a trillion dollars.