US-Taliban make ‘significant progress’ in ‘vital issues’

Doha: Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, said “significant progress” was made during the six days of talks held with the Taliban, aimed at finding a solution for the 17-year-old conflict.

“After six days in Doha, I’m headed to #Afghanistan for consultations. Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues,” he tweeted on Saturday.
Al Jazeera quoted the Taliban stating that “the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and other vital issues saw progress”.

“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,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

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The Taliban also dismissed media reports claiming that an agreement for a ceasefire had been reached with the Afghanistan government.

“Reports by some media outlets about agreement on a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration are not true,” the statement read.

Khalilzad denied reports that a draft peace deal had been agreed upon, saying, “Will build on the momentum and resume talks shortly. We have a number of issues left to work out. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and everything must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire”.

A source close to the Taliban told Anadolu Agency that the terror outfit has resisted pressure from the US to announce a ceasefire and direct talks with the Afghan government.

Over the course of six days, Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, was named as the leader of its political office in Qatar.

Baradar, who at one point was the number two in the group, helped Mullah Omar start the Taliban movement in Afghanistan in 1994. He held a number of key positions when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Having fled to Pakistan following US invasion in 2001, Baradar was arrested in 2010, which was considered to be a fatal blow to the movement. He was released from a Pakistani prison in October last year after the first meeting between Khalilzad and the Taliban in Doha. This meeting, however, has not been confirmed by the US.
Security experts believe that Baradar’s release was part of a high-level negotiation initiated by Khalilzad.

Prior to leaving for Doha, Khalilzad said in Kabul that the US will continue to support Afghanistan, adding that Washington will fight if the Taliban wished to continue the fight, and peace will be sought if the Taliban wants peace.

However, there has been no respite from violence in Afghanistan, despite the talks in Doha.

On Monday, 100 security forces personnel were killed after the Taliban attacked a military base 44 kilometres from Kabul.

Last week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had said that around 45,000 security forces personnel have been killed since he assumed office in 2014.


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