Europe looks on as Washington crosses the threshold to make a deal with the Taliban

US has indicated it is on verge of deal with Afghan militants, without open European assistance

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 12, 2015 US army soldiers walk as a NATO helicopter flies overhead at coalition force Forward Operating Base (FOB) Connelly in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar.  President Donald Trump has decided to pull a significant number of troops from Afghanistan, a US official told AFP on Thursday, a day after he announced a withdrawal from Syria. "That decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
 / AFP / Wakil KOHSAR
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US Nato allies in Afghanistan have been conspicuously absent from negotiations with the Taliban, which Washington says will soon yield a peace deal.

But the American approach has had broad support.

US President Donald Trump’s senior negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said this week that a deal had been hammered out between the combatants “in principle”.

Nato allies such as Britain, Canada, Germany and France – all of whom backed Washington’s 2001 military arrival in Afghanistan – have taken a low profile.

On Tuesday, the defence alliance's chief, Jens Stoltenberg, threw his weight behind the US efforts as he met Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels, but Mr Pompeo has publicly spoken little about Afghanistan on his two-day trip to Europe.

Hameed Hakimi, a research associate at the Chatham House think tank in London, said the Nato allies' role in the peace talks was in line with part they played on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

“The intervention in Afghanistan was US-led and has remained US-led, so the Nato countries, particularly the western European nations and the Scandinavians, haven't really done anything in Afghanistan that has gone against the stated interests of the US,” Mr Hakimi said.

He said their part in securing the peace had normally gone on behind the scenes.

“Britain, Germany, Norway and others had been incubating the space before the Americans went in front of the cameras and said, 'We are going to speak to the Taliban',” Mr Hakimi said.

The US desire for a deal with the Taliban has partly been driven by domestic concerns. Mr Trump has frequently railed against the war as a continued waste of resources and life.

The final positions of the US, its allies and the Taliban in Afghanistan is still unclear.

Mr Khalilzad, while explaining that 5,000 US troops would withdraw within 135 days, gave no hint of what would happen to the rest of the 14,000 American soldiers still in the country.

Ending America's longest-running conflict is complex, as shown by a letter from nine senior US diplomats, including former ambassadors to Afghanistan and a secretary of state.

In it they condemned the troop withdrawal arrangements, which they say could lead to “total civil war”.

Umer Karim, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the Taliban preferred to deal directly with the Americans, further pushing their allies into the background.

“The Taliban for now only want to talk with the US and considers its guarantees acceptable," Mr Karim said. "So that limits any potential EU role in this theatre."

He said regional states outside of Nato had also taken on important roles at the expense of European nations.

“Regional states have a more important role," Mr Karim said.

"Specifically, Pakistan is leading the co-ordination and facilitating the talks between US and Taliban at times by pressuring the Taliban.

"It has also co-ordinated actively with Russia, China and Iran."