The United States and the Afghan militant group Taliban say they have made “meaningful progress” in their latest talks held in the Qatari capital of Doha, reaching agreement in draft on the issues of troops withdrawal and counter-terrorism assurances.
“The Taliban have agreed that peace will require both sides to fully address four core issues, and they are counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue and a comprehensive cease-fire,” US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said Tuesday.
He said US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was returning to Washington for consultations.
Khalilzad also said the two sides had reached “agreement in draft” on the issues of troops withdrawal and counter-terrorism assurances.
“When the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire,” Khalilzad said in a tweet.
“My next step is discussions in Washington and consultations with other partners. We will meet again soon, and there is no final agreement until everything is agreed,” he added.
The Taliban also said they want agreement on four issues for any deal to be signed, including the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. The other issues are counter-terrorism assurances, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a ceasefire.
A senior Taliban commander, familiar with the talks, said the group will announce a ceasefire with the US only after foreign forces leave the country.
The US has entered into talks with the Taliban to end its 17-year war in Afghanistan. The two sides resumed talks on Tuesday after making progress in an earlier round of discussions, also held in Doha, in January. The marathon January talks saw the US and the Taliban walk away with a “draft framework” focused on a potential US troop withdrawal and a pact to prevent Afghanistan from harboring terrorists.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly stressed that no peace deal between the Taliban and the United States could be finalized without involving his government.
The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the US invasion in 2001 but 18 years on, Washington is seeking truce with the militants.
President Donald Trump has said he intended to reduce the number of US forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban have said the US promised them to withdraw half of its troops although the timing for the pullout has not been finalized.
The US forces have remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Trump.