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April 20, 2019

US does not want 'precipitous' withdrawal from Afghanistan: senator

US does not want 'precipitous' withdrawal from Afghanistan: senator
'President Donald Trump last year said he wanted to slash America's 14,000-strong troop presence in Afghanistan by about half' - By: AFP/File SHAH MARAI

The United States does not want to pursue a "precipitous" withdrawal from Afghanistan, a top Democratic lawmaker said in Kabul on Monday amid an ongoing push to end the war.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the influential Senate Armed Services Committee that oversees the US military, also stressed that women must have a place at the table as the US tries to negotiate with the Taliban.

President Donald Trump last year told advisors he wanted to slash America's 14,000-strong troop presence in Afghanistan by about half, prompting criticism he was seeking to rush a withdrawal.

"What we've heard here (is) that whatever negotiated settlement ends the conflict, that it be done in a way that's very deliberate, that ensures a transition that all sides can participate in, and that there should not be a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan," Shaheen told reporters at the US embassy.

Congressional colleagues agreed, she said, adding "that's the position of the administration as well".

"There is a deliberate position that may not always be reflected in the tweets that come from the White House," she said, referring to Trump's penchant of firing off unexpected foreign policy messages.

Shaheen also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is the only woman on the panel.

She said it is vital for women to be included in talks with the Taliban, whose regime shredded any Western notion of women's rights and executed women for allegations of adultery.

"What we know from the data is that when women are engaged, there is about a 35 percent more likely chance that those negotiations will ... endure for a longer period of time," Shaheen said.

It's important that "whatever comes out of any peace negotiations, that we support having women at the table."

A fresh round of talks is expected to take place later this month between Afghan political leaders, including some officials from the Kabul government, and the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha.

The Taliban have long refused to speak officially with Kabul, dubbing the government a "puppet" of the West, and the militants have insisted that government officials are attending only in a "personal capacity".

The makeup of the delegation has not yet been announced, but an initial list reportedly only had two female participants.

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