KABUL - American forces have started pulling out of two bases in Afghanistan, a US official said Tuesday, the day peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban were due to start despite widespread violence and a political crisis.

The United States is keen to end its longest-ever conflict, and under the terms of a deal signed in Doha last month has said all foreign forces will quit Afghanistan within 14 months, provided the Taliban stick to their security commitments.

Under the accord, the US is initially supposed to cut its troop presence from about 12,000 currently to 8,600 by mid-July, and close five of its roughly 20 bases across the country. Troops have started leaving one base in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in the south, and another base in Herat in the east, a US official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

On the other hand, the United States has called for a Tuesday vote at the UN Security Council to endorse Washington’s deal with the Taliban that was meant to pave the way to peace in Afghanistan, diplomats said. The US military has begun withdrawing troops as part of the pullout agreed in the February 29 agreement with the Taliban.

The request for a UN vote came after hard negotiations that began one week ago, diplomats said Monday. China requested in the last draft, already revised three times, that the resolution mention “regional cooperation,” the sources said.

The resolution comes amid a series of institutional crises in Afghanistan, following the double swearing-in Monday of President Ashraf Ghani and his rival and former chief executive Abdullah Abduallah, both of whom claimed victory in the recent presidential election.

According to the draft text seen by a foreign news agency, the Security Council “urges the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to advance the peace process, including by participating in intra-Afghan negotiations through a diverse and inclusive negotiating team composed of Afghan political and civil society leaders, including women.”


The US’s request that the Security Council adjust its agreement with the Taliban is a rare move in the forum for an accord between a foreign country and an insurgent group, diplomats said.


Diplomats were also surprised that the agreement included two secret appendices on the fight against terrorism that Council members must approve without even knowing what they say. One diplomat described it as “unbelievable.”


Russia’s position on the resolution remains uncertain. Moscow had hinted on Friday that it might oppose the text after the US rejected a statement endorsing a ceasefire agreement in Syria between Russia and Turkey.


The US draft on Afghanistan “welcomes” the February 29 pullout deal and “calls upon all States to provide their full support to promoting the successful negotiation of a comprehensive and sustainable peace agreement which ends the war for the benefit of all Afghans.”


Washington’s plan also puts pressure on the Afghan government to engage in negotiations with the Taliban to achieve a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.” Although the first version of the text, released last week, omitted any mention of women, the latest text mentions them several times.


That text, which will be put to a vote,” emphasises the importance of the effective and meaningful participation of women, youth and minorities, and affirms that any political settlement must protect the rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and minorities.”


The US resolution also states that the Security Council “expresses its readiness upon the commencement of the intra-Afghan negotiations to review the status” of UN sanctions imposed on individuals and groups in 2011 “in order to support the peace process.”