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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Go home America, Taliban says in letter to Trump

The militants say the US president has recognised the errors of his predecessors by seeking a review of the US strategy for Afghanistan

Afghan security forces keep watch near the site of a US airstrike on a civilian vehicle in Haska Mina district, Nangarhar province, on August 12, 2017. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP
Afghan security forces keep watch near the site of a US airstrike on a civilian vehicle in Haska Mina district, Nangarhar province, on August 12, 2017. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP

The Taliban have sent an "open letter" to US president Donald Trump, reiterating their calls for the United States to leave Afghanistan after 16 years of war.

In a long and rambling note in English that was sent to journalists on Tuesday by Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, the militants say Mr Trump has recognised the errors of his predecessors by seeking a review of the US strategy for Afghanistan.

Mujahid says the US president should not hand control of the US policy on Afghanistan to the military but instead announce the withdrawal of American troops — not an increase in troops as the Trump administration has planned.

The letter, which is 1,600 words long, also says a US withdrawal would "truly deliver American troops from harm's way" and bring about "an end to an inherited war".

The US has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan and Mr Trump has so far resisted the Pentagon's recommendations to send almost 4,000 more to expand training of Afghan military forces and bolster US counterterrorism operations. The deployment has been held up amid broader strategy questions, including how to engage regional powers in an effort to stabilise Afghanistan.

What is evident is that the Afghan government has struggled to halt Taliban advances on its own and is now also battling an ISIL affiliate that has carved out a foothold, mostly in eastern Afghanistan. In its most recent report, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said the Taliban hold sway in nearly 50 per cent of the country.

The Taliban letter sought to flatter Mr Trump for initiating the Afghan policy review while warning against handing it to "warmongering generals".

"We have noticed that you have understood the errors of your predecessors and have resolved to thoroughly rethinking your new strategy in Afghanistan," it said. "You must also not hand over the Afghan issue to warmongering generals, but must make a decision where history shall remember you as an advocate of peace."

The letter gave a long list of complaints against Afghanistan's US-orchestrated unity government.