The United States is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan as part of an agreement with the Taliban to end the nearly two-decades-long conflict there, US media reported on Thursday.

The Washington Post and CNN cited unnamed sources as saying that the deal would see US troops in Afghanistan reduce from roughly 14,000 to 8,000-9,000.

The agreement would also require the Taliban to begin direct negotiations with the Kabul government, which the militant group calls a “puppet regime.”

The deal would also see a drastic reduction of US embassy personnel in Kabul and cuts in security personnel, CNN reported.

The reports come after Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said on Wednesday that the US was willing to “conclude an agreement” if the Taliban do their part in a breakthrough in negotiations between the two sides.

The US and the Taliban have been meeting since last year in hopes of finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict, and are set to begin a fresh round talks in the Qatari capital of Doha in the next few days.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday that “there is the hope that a solution may get finalized in this round.”

Washington above all wants Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not become a safe haven for terrorists, while the Taliban is focused on ensuring the withdrawal of all US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.

According to the US, an agreement should also include a ceasefire.


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