Gates: 'Real risk' Taliban can retake Afghanistan if US troops withdrawn

Gates: 'Real risk' Taliban can retake Afghanistan if US troops withdrawn
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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said there was “real risk” that the Taliban can take over Afghanistan if U.S. troops are pulled out of the country. 

The Obama-era Pentagon chief said that the administration must be assured that the Afghan government is stable before the U.S. withdraws the 12,000 troops who are stationed in Afghanistan.

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“I think that the circumstances under which you bring them home matter. And I think trying to give the Afghan government the best possible shot at survival is really important for the future of Afghanistan,” Gates said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that will air Sunday. 

Gates added that there are potentially grave consequences to a premature withdrawal, including significant risks to women’s rights in the country.

The former Defense secretary said that any agreement produced by talks with the Taliban must ensure that the armed group becomes part of the government in Kabul rather than form its own governance mechanisms. However, he said that any deal’s enforcement will likely hinge on the cooperation of others in the country.”

“So the question is, can you negotiate an arrangement whereby the Taliban agrees to operate under the Afghan Constitution, becomes a part of the political process?” Gates asked.

“If they agree to any kind of a compromise deal, it's really up to the other Afghans at the end of the day to- to resist any moves, to get rid of those changes, to go backward, if you will,” he continued.

The Trump administration is currently talking with the Taliban to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan, although representatives of the Afghan government have not yet been included in the negotiations, widening a rift between Washington and Kabul.

Gates commended the administration for trying to end the protracted conflict but stressed that any deal’s ultimate results will eventually be out of Washington’s hands.

“I think it's up to us after all this time to at least try and put the Afghan government in as positive a position for that contest that will come at some point as we can. But at the end of the day, you've got to admit, it's going to be up to the Afghans themselves,” Gates said.