Both the U.S and Taliban are confirming that they had made substantial headway in negotiations to end the 17-year US war in Afghanistan, although some contentious issue still unresolved. Both sides are engaged in six day long talks to make the breakthrough to end one of the longest wars in the world. The agreement has already been made on some issues like withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in next 18 months.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the special American representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan is spearheading the talks. He took to the twitter and said that “Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues. We will build on the momentum and resume talks shortly. We have a number of issues left to work out,” he tweeted.
Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and ‘everything’ must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire.” While he has not given details, floated proposals include a withdrawal by the United States of its troops in return for Taliban guarantees not to shelter foreign extremists — the initial reason for the US intervention.
Zalmay Khalilzad returned to Kabul to hold further talks with Afghan government and to brief the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani on the talks so far. He will be back in Qatar to resume talks with Taliban. Both sides seem confident to reach an agreement to end war and fighting in the war ravaged Afghanistan.
In his tweet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shares the optimistic sentiments and saidthat he had heard “encouraging news” from Khalilzad. “The US is serious about pursuing peace, preventing Afghanistan from continuing to be a space for international terrorism & bringing forces home,” he added.
Working with the Afghan government and all interested parties, the US seeks to strengthen Afghan sovereignty, independence & prosperity.” President Trump has been eager to end America’s longest war, which was launched shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Trump has already said he will pull half of the 14,000 US troops from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said that while there was “progress” at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a ceasefire and talks with Kabul “are not true.” “Since issues are of critical nature and need comprehensive discussions, therefore it was decided that talks about unresolved matters will resume in similar future meetings,” he said in a statement.
The Taliban have so far refused to hold direct talks with Afghan officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets”. They say they will only begin negotiations with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of US troops has been agreed.
The US has accepted many of our demands and both sides are very much agreed on major points, but some points are still under discussion,” said one Taliban commander talking to international media, “We are moving forward and a lot of progress has been made so far. Efforts are underway to find some middle ground to solve the remaining disputed issues. The Afghan government is one of them,” he added.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani also hailed the dialogue, tweeting: “This progress marks a significant step in the history of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban in the past have refused to deal with the internationally recognised government of President Ashraf Ghani. The length and apparent breadth of the Taliban talks are unprecedented, signaling that both the United States and the Taliban see a path forward.
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17 November, 2019