Pakistan says U.S. troop withdrawal 'step forward' in Afghan peace effort

The expected United States move comes days after Taliban had reiterated its demand of withdrawal of the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops from the Afghan soil in talks with Washington in the UAE.

The minister said Pakistan has released some Taliban to help facilitate the talks.

While Afghanistan's government was not included in the talks, Kabul was concerned that a hasty agreement between the U.S. and Taliban negotiators would potentially undermine the country's security. Officials now worry that any move to withdraw US troops this year could dampen those prospects and simply encourage the Taliban to wait it out until they can take advantage of the gaps when the forces leave.

He said Pakistan will continue to play whatever role it can play to support the Afghan peace process, the Dawn report said.

US troops stormed into Afghanistan in November 2001 in an invasion triggered by the September 11 attacks.

"The US reviewed its (Afghanistan) policy and then talks were held in Abu Dhabi, then there was progress in the talks and things are moving ahead", Qureshi told reporters in the central city of Multan.

"Announcing a move like this now could squander the best chance to date to launch a peace process to end a war that has raged for far too long", says Kugelman, adding that Washington would lose a major bargaining chip in talks.

Some analysts say the USA troop withdrawal could also have a silver lining and could send a useful message to all sides. "This will also force the Afghan government to think about peace as a short-term prospect instead of something that could be delayed for years".

President Donald Trump considers the war in Afghanistan a lost cause and has long pushed to pull the troops out. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, the official said Taliban officials think the promised departure could help the peace process because it could "lead to trust building that the USA wants a political solution". He said most of the U.S. forces likely to be withdrawn "are engaged in a training and advising mission for Afghan forces, and Afghan forces are capable of defending the country".

President Ghani's administration said Friday that the government yielded to demands of Afghans in forming a national consensus on peace, yet the rebel movement was adamant on fighting.

"Considering the decision as a serious US endgame step, political elites in Kabul will probably aim to close ranks and raise questions about the timing and commitments made to maintain stability", says Omar Samad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council and former Afghan diplomat.