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'Real Risk': Ex-DoD Chief Says Taliban Can Retake Afghanistan After US Withdraws

© REUTERS / StringerA member of the Taliban insurgent
A member of the Taliban insurgent - Sputnik International
Former US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates has said in an interview with the CBS broadcaster that there was a "real risk" that the Taliban could retake Afghanistan if US troops are pulled out of the country.

"I think that the circumstances under which you bring them home matter. And trying to give the Afghan government the best possible shot at survival is really important for the future of Afghanistan”, Gates told CBS.

Gates also warned of potential grave consequences of a US withdrawal, including risks to women's rights in Afghanistan.

READ MORE: Taliban, Daesh Conduct Attacks in Afghanistan, Leading to 17 Victims — Reports

The armed confrontation between Kabul and the Taliban has been dragging on for years, with the insurgents carrying out regular attacks across the country, and the government conducting anti-terrorist raids with support from the United States.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in a statement said Thursday that the sixth round of talks between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar has ended and faster progress is needed.

US soldiers part of NATO patrol during the final day of a month long anti-Taliban operation by the Afghan National Army (ANA) in various parts of eastern Nangarhar province, at an Afghan National Army base in Khogyani district on August 30, 2015 - Sputnik International
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The two sides are reportedly trying to reach a peace deal and discuss the intra-Afghan dialogue, withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, a permanent ceasefire and assurances that the country will not be used as a safe haven for terrorists who threaten the United States and its allies.

Robert Gates has told CBS that any agreement produced by the talks with the Taliban must ensure that the armed group becomes part of the government in Kabul.

“So the question is, can you negotiate an arrangement whereby the Taliban agrees to operate under the Afghan Constitution, becomes a part of the political process? […] If they agree to any kind of a compromise deal, it's really up to the other Afghans at the end of the day to- to resist any moves, to get rid of those changes, to go backward, if you will”, Gates stressed.

READ MORE: Why Daesh, Taliban are 'Destined to Merge in Afghanistan'

Afghanistan has long been in a state of turmoil, with the government fighting the Taliban movement, which controls vast territories in rural areas and regularly launches offensives across the country. The situation has been exacerbated by the activities of the Daesh terrorist group, which has been reportedly operating in Afghanistan since 2015.

Soldiers with the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry Regiment based in Hawaii, pull security as a Blackhawk helicopter lands during an assessment mission to Observation Point Mace days after insurgents attacked four outposts in the area killing some two dozen members of Afghan security forces Saturday, July 9, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan - Sputnik International
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The United States has been carrying out its counterterrorism campaign on Afghan soil since late 2001. While most US troops left Afghanistan by the end of 2014, US President Donald Trump announced in December 2018 that he would pull out around half of the remaining 14,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

In February, Trump said that future reductions in US forces would be tied to progress in peace talks, apparently backing away from a December announcement of plans to cut the present US deployment in Afghanistan.

*Taliban, Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) are terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other countries.

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