"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.