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Half of Afghans Want US Troops Out     01/25 09:37

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Nearly half of all Afghans want U.S. and NATO 
troops to leave Afghanistan once a peace deal to end the country's 18-year war 
is signed with the Taliban, according to a survey released Thursday. 

   The Institute of War and Peace Studies also found that an overwhelming 80% 
of Afghans surveyed said a political solution was the only way to bring about 
an end to fighting. Twenty percent said a military solution was possible. 

   The survey found that 46% of Afghans want U.S. and NATO troops out of the 
country once a deal is struck, while 33% would have them stay. 

   The survey polled 5,038 Afghans in 34 provinces. It was conducted between 
Nov. 23-Dec. 20 and has a 5% margin of error. Sixty-one percent of participants 
answered online with the remaining 39% were interviewed in person. 

   Fifty seven percent of those surveyed wanted the Taliban to evict the 
foreign fighters among them. Many of those foreigners are believed to have 
links to al-Qaida and other militant organizations.

   Washington has been talking directly with the Taliban since September 2018, 
when the White House appointed Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad to start peace 
talks. The talks are aimed at finding an agreement to end America's longest 
conflict and allow the U.S. to bring home its troops.

   The survey showed Afghans were divided over the choice of Khalilzad as chief 
negotiator, with 41% favoring his appointment and 39% opposed. A whopping 20%, 
however, said they had no opinion.

   Of the 5,038 Afghans surveyed, 3,274 were men and just 1,764 were women.

   A strong 83% of those surveyed said women should be involved in the peace 
negotiations, while just 17% were opposed. 

   A peace agreement, which is being negotiated between Khalilzad and Taliban 
negotiators, will leave it to Afghans on both sides of the conflict to 
negotiate the face of a post-war Afghanistan. They must decide on 
constitutional changes enshrining the rights of women, media and free speech. 
The negotiations will decide the future of Taliban fighters as well as the 
heavily armed militias belonging to warlords ruling in Kabul.

   The majority of Afghans surveyed said they feared their homeland would 
descend into civil war if America pulls out its troops without first getting a 
peace deal.

   As Afghans contemplate a future without a U.S. military troop presence, in 
Iraq the killing earlier this month of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani has 
bolstered Iran's efforts to see U.S. troops leave Iraq. The withdrawal of 
American forces from Iraq has been a long-standing goal of Iran's.

   Meanwhile, Taliban fighters took responsibility Thursday for the ambush and 
killing of an Afghan intelligence official in southern Helmand province. 

   The officer, who headed the intelligence department's press office for the 
province, was ambushed late Wednesday, according to provincial police chief 
spokesman Zaman Hamdard. 

   In the country's north, a roadside bomb killed a military commander and his 
bodyguard early Wednesday. 

   The attack in northern Faryab province killed the commandeer of the Afghan 
army's 1st Battalion and his bodyguard and wounded two other bodyguards.

   The Taliban control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan and 
continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and U.S. forces, Kabul 
government officials or those seen as linked to the government. That's the case 
even as they hold peace talks with the U.S. and have given the U.S. envoy a 
document outlining their offer for a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan.


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