Afghan men carry an injured girl into a hospital after a large explosion in Kabul on Sept. 2. (Rahmat Gul/Associated Press)

A draft peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban would withdraw 5,400 U.S. troops from five bases in Afghanistan within five months of the deal being signed, the top U.S. negotiator said Monday after briefing Afghan officials.

In an interview with Afghan news outlet ToloNews, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad described the proposed plan as “an agreement with the Taliban in principle” but cautioned that “it is not final until the president of the United States also agrees to it.”

In a meeting last month, President Trump gave Khalilzad the go-ahead to finalize such a deal.

Khalilzad, in the interview on Monday, declined to name the U.S. bases that would be affected but noted that any withdrawal would be contingent on the Taliban abiding by the terms of the agreement. In exchange for the initial troop withdrawal, which would amount to more than one-third of the U.S. troop presence in the country, the Taliban would cut ties with al-Qaeda and provide counterterrorism guarantees. 

Khalilzad also said that the draft identifies the Taliban as the Islamic Emirate, the militant group’s preferred name. But he said that implied no recognition of the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. U.S. officials have said previously that the name would identify the Taliban as a political party.

Afghan government officials were briefed on the draft, Khalilzad said, but they were not given copies.


Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, meets with Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul. (Afghan Chief Executive Office/Reuters)

“It is our agreement with the Taliban, not their agreement with the Taliban,” he said, referring to the Afghan government. He declined to characterize the government’s initial response. 

It is not certain whether the agreement will be finalized. 

About 10 p.m. local time, toward the end of ToloNews’s broadcast of the prerecorded Khalilzad interview, a truck bomb exploded close to the Green Village, a compound in Kabul hosting international groups. The blast shook the city, and small-arms fire could be heard shortly after. When the bomb exploded, a fuel station nearby caught on fire, officials said.

The Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack, saying it had targeted “foreign occupiers.” At least 16 people were killed and 119 civilians injured, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Tuesday morning. Employees of the Green Village were among the dead.

Police evacuated more than 400 foreigners from the compound, Rahimi said, and Special Forces killed five attackers hidden nearby.

The blast renewed fears of increased Taliban attacks ahead of any final deal. 

This week, the Taliban attacked two major cities in northern Afghanistan, killing dozens of civilians and security forces, even as Khalilzad said a deal was close.

Khalilzad flew to Kabul on Sunday after announcing on Twitter that he had wrapped up the latest round of peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar and that the two sides were on “the threshold” of a deal. The United States and the Taliban have met for nine rounds of talks over 10 months.

Reports of the proposed partial troop withdrawal have been met with criticism from some of Trump’s supporters, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), and some national security advisers within the administration on grounds that the Taliban cannot be trusted and the United States would be giving up gains made during the 18-year war.

On Monday, Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi told reporters here that the government would review the proposal and offer feedback in the coming days. Khalilzad also met with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Monday. 

The Taliban has long demanded a complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan. U.S. officials have said that withdrawal will be “conditions-based,” but the Trump administration is hopeful that troops remaining after the initial drawdown will leave by late next year.

Last week, Trump told Fox News Radio that his administration planned to reduce troop levels to about 8,600, but he did not offer a timeline for the withdrawal. 

Afghanistan’s presidential election is scheduled for Sept. 28, and incumbent Ashraf Ghani is up for a second term. The vote has been postponed twice already, but critics have urged Ghani to delay the election again, saying it could threaten the peace process. The independent electoral commission has also warned that about 2,000 polling places will be closed because of security issues. Abdullah, Ghani’s top challenger in the contest, said this week that he would be willing to “quit elections for the sake of peace.”

But on Monday, Seddiqi reaffirmed plans to move forward with the vote. 

Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.