The United States has gotten closer to reaching a deal with the Taliban that could lead to a withdrawal of U.S. troops in the region, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Afghanistan peace said Monday.
American and Taliban officials agreed on the framework of a deal that includes U.S. forces leaving the area in exchange for a pledge from the Taliban that their territory in Afghanistan would not be used by them or other terrorist groups to harm the U.S. or its interests, The New York Times reported.
The Taliban must also agree to a cease-fire and direct talks with the Afghan government, two concessions the Taliban has long resisted.
“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the United States’s chief negotiator told the Times in Kabul, Afghanistan. “The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who hasn’t been as involved in talks between the U.S. and the insurgents, called on the Taliban in a televised address Monday to “begin serious talks” with his government so all parties can reach peace.
Met today with @AfghanistanHPC Chair Khalili, UNSRSG Yamamoto of @UNAMANews & Ambassadors from interested countries. Briefed them on the latest round of talks. No one has a monopoly on the diplomacy of peace and all have contributions to make. Good discussions and some new ideas. pic.twitter.com/2R2WYM6Yps
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) January 28, 2019
“We want peace quickly. We want it soon, but we want it with prudence,” Ghani said. “Prudence is important so we do not repeat past mistakes.”
Khalilzad’s statement came after six days of talks between U.S. envoys and Taliban officials in Qatar, and moves the needle closer to a peace deal that would end 17 years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
2/3. 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.
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) January 26, 2019
“There is a lot more work to be done before we can say we have succeeded in our efforts but I believe for the first time I can say that we have made significant progress,” Khalilzad said in a statement.
As for the Taliban, officials issued a statement Saturday saying that while progress has been made, “until the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is agreed upon, progress in other issues is impossible.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the talks “encouraging news” in a Saturday tweet, adding that “The U.S. is serious about pursuing peace, preventing [Afghanistan] from continuing to be a space for international terrorism & bringing forces home.”
“Working with the Afghan gov’t & all interested parties, the U.S. seeks to strengthen Afghan sovereignty, independence & prosperity,” Pompeo added.