November 12, 2019

US, Taliban on threshold of peace deal

PESHAWAR: The United States and the Afghan Taliban concluded on Saturday the last round of peace talks in Doha, with representatives from the United States and the Taliban claiming they were on the threshold of the peace agreement that will likely reduce violence and open the way for The intra-Afghan dialogue.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the American diplomat born in Afghanistan, who oversees peace talks for the United States, said he would travel to Kabul on Sunday for consultations after concluding the ninth round of talks with Taliban officials in Qatar. He gave no information about the likely peace agreement and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

In addition, the main Taliban leaders said they had solved “most” of the problems with the United States, and said in the first phase that it was decided to exchange prisoners.

“We have given you a list of our 5000 prisoners, including some senior Taliban members. The United States had agreed with us to release all of these 5,000 prisoners as a confidence building measure. In return, we would also release all their prisoners, including three foreign citizens and Afghan officials, ”a senior Taliban leader told this correspondent on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban said they had delivered a list of their prisoners to the US negotiating team and pledged to release them.

The Taliban did not mention the number of prisoners they currently hold, but said they had many prisoners, in which, in addition to the three foreigners, they included Afghan security and government officials.

“Neither the US negotiating team nor the Afghans had so far shared a list of their prisoners with us. If they shared a list, we would see them and definitely release them, ”said the Taliban leader. However, he clarified that some of the Afghan security officials involved in the killing of Taliban militants or other Taliban leaders were being prosecuted in the Taliban courts and, therefore, would not be released.

Taliban leaders said it was decided between them, the United States and the Taliban, that they would soon announce a ceasefire in Afghanistan and then exchange prisoners.

The Taliban said the United States had pledged to give a road map for the gradual withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan.

“In the first phase, they agreed to withdraw a greater number of troops, approximately 8000-10,000. And the remaining forces would be withdrawn as agreed in more than a year, ”said the Taliban leader. And shortly after the exchange of prisoners, the Taliban said they would join the intra-Afghan dialogue. The meeting between Taliban and Afghan leaders is expected to be held in Oslo, Norway, probably later this month.

On the intra-Afghan dialogue, the Taliban clarified by saying that they would not involve the Afghan government in the peace talks. “We make it clear that people sitting in the Afghan government can participate in the intra-Afghan dialogue, but they would not represent the government,” said the Taliban leader in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

In addition, about the ceasefire, the Taliban said they had made the United States clear in the peace talks that would only mean between the United States and the Taliban.

“What they (the US negotiating team) agreed with us is that we would not stop our fight against the Afghan government and its armed forces.” In addition, we made it clear that we would immediately break the ceasefire if US forces came to the rescue of Afghan forces in their clashes with the Taliban, ”said the Taliban leader.

Similarly, Taliban sources said they informed the US negotiating team that they would not participate in the Afghan presidential elections or allow it to happen.

According to the Taliban, the United States wanted to avoid some of the decisions mentioned in the peace agreement. The Taliban reportedly opposed and wanted all decisions made in the peace talks to be documented in the agreement.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban political office based in Qatar and a member of its negotiating team, also seems optimistic about the peace talks and said

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