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UPDATE 1-U.S. should consult Taliban on any Afghan pullout delay -Pakistani envoy to U.S.

Jonathan Landay
·2 min read

(Adds quotes, background)

By Jonathan Landay

WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The United States shouldconsult the Taliban on any extension of a May 1 deadline for afull U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan and should not decideunilaterally, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States saidon Friday.

Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan's comments come as the Bidenadministration conducts a review of a February 2020 deal withthe Taliban that is expected to determine whether it will meetthe deadline to withdraw the last U.S. soldiers from America'slongest war.

U.S. and European officials say the Taliban have notfulfilled commitments they made in the accord and thatconditions are not conducive to advancing the peace process amida surge in violence blamed on the insurgents.

The Taliban, seeking to reimpose Islamic rule in Afghanistanafter their 2001 ouster at the hands of U.S.-led troops, denythe charges and indicate they will resume attacks on U.S. andallied troops unless the May deadline is kept.

Khan told an online forum sponsored by the Stimson Centerthat U.S. officials should consult the Taliban before decidingwhether to maintain the last 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"That is where the process should start," Khan said. "Topresent this as a fait accompli, I think, will only createdifficulty."

Khan's comments were significant as Pakistan, which helpedfacilitate the U.S.-Taliban negotiations in Doha that clinchedthe February 2020 deal, wields considerable influence with theinsurgents.

The insurgents have sanctuaries in Pakistan, whose mainmilitary-run intelligence service gives them support, accordingto U.S. and Afghan officials. Pakistan denies the allegation.

"If there is strong justification and reasoning to have anextension for logistical or other reasons, the parties haveovercome difficulties ... before in terms of reaching commonground," Khan said. "It's really also a question of thecredibility of the United States."(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Nick Mamcfie)