Foreign forces to quit Afghanistan in 18 months under draft deal: Taliban officials
Reuters reported this following six days of talks between Taliban representatives and US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Qatar.
Khalilzad said that the talks had made “significant progress” and would resume shortly. He said that he planned to travel to Afghanistan to meet government officials.
“Meetings here (in Qatar) were more productive than they have been in the past. We have made significant progress on vital issues,” he tweeted, adding that numerous issues still needed work.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and everything must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire,” he wrote.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday wrote on Twitter that he had received “encouraging news” from Khalilzad about the talks.
“The U.S. is serious about pursuing peace, preventing #Afghanistan from continuing to be a space for international terrorism & bringing forces home,” Pompeo tweeted. He did not give a timetable for the potential withdrawal of US forces.
The Taliban issued a statement noting progress on troop withdrawal and other issues but said more negotiations and internal consultations were required.
“The policy of the Islamic Emirate during talks was very clear — until the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is agreed upon, progress in other issues is impossible,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Reuters citing sources said that the Taliban gave assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants to attack the US and its allies.
According to the sources, the draft deal included a ceasefire provision but they had yet to confirm a timeline and would only open talks with Afghans once a truce was implemented.
“In 18 months, if the foreign forces are withdrawn and ceasefire is implemented, then other aspects of the peace process can be put into action,” a Taliban source said, quoting from a portion of the draft.
The sources said that the next round of talks was expected in the same venue next month.
According to the sources, other clauses in the draft included an agreement over the exchange and release of prisoners, the removal of international travel ban on Taliban leaders by Washington and the prospect of an interim Afghan government after the ceasefire is struck.
The deal included provisions that separatist militants from Balochistan in Pakistan will not be allowed to use Afghan soil to target Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s foreign minister said that the Doha talks were quite successful.
“Expect more good news in the next few days,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi said. “We want a solution to the problems in Afghanistan. We want to resume trade.”