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Pakistan suggests Taliban to agree on unannounced ceasefire: Report

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Pakistan has suggested the Taliban to agree on an unannounced ceasefire, days after a high-level delegation of the militant group met the country’s foreign minister as part of a push to revive the Afghan peace process, according to a media report on Monday.

The US too has endorsed the idea and indicated resuming peace talks if the Taliban were ready to give the commitment for a ceasefire in private as it can create a conducive environment to finalise a peace deal, The Express Tribune reported.

The high-level delegation of the Taliban Political Commission (TPC) called on Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi earlier this month. Taliban has said that the delegation’s visit to Pakistan was aimed at putting the peace process back on track.

A senior official, on the condition of anonymity, told the newspaper that Pakistan has been pressing the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire or at least give a commitment for reducing the level of violence.

The official said that to end the stalemate, Pakistan suggested the Taliban to agree on an unannounced ceasefire if they had any problem in making their decision public at this stage.

The peace talks between the US and the Taliban were stalled by President Donald Trump following the killing of an American soldier in Kabul last month in a suicide attack claimed by the militant group.

Trump stunned the world when he suddenly declared that the Afghan peace talks with the Taliban were “dead” after he cancelled a secret meeting with the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David near Washington.

The Taliban has so far not given any response to the proposal. But the two sides agreed to take some confidence-building measures (CBM) before making progress on contentious issues, the report said.

The exchange of prisoners between the insurgent group and the US soon after the talks in Islamabad was part of those CBMs, the official said, referring to the release of 11 members of the Taliban in exchange of three Indian engineers earlier this month from Afghan jails.

The chances of revival of talks got a boost with the unannounced visit of US Defense Secretary Mark Esper to Afghanistan on Sunday.

The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, a political agreement, that is the best way forward, Esper told reporters travelling with him.

In August, US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and Afghan Taliban representatives met in Doha to finalise the draft peace deal, seeking an end to the 18-year-long conflict.

The two sides were scheduled to sign the deal in the first week of September.

Trump, who considers himself as a deal-maker, wanted to take full credit of the imminent peace agreement and decided to invite the Afghan Taliban leaders at Camp David.

But the process hit a roadblock when certain officials within the Trump administration opposed the deal as a document of surrender, the report said.

Trump had to call off the meeting with the Taliban as well as the peace talks.

What led to the collapse of the year-long talks was the refusal of the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire or reduce the level of violence in Afghanistan, it said.

The Trump administration wanted to insert the new clause that would have mentioned the Taliban committing to a ceasefire in the proposed deal. The insurgent group refused to change the already agreed deal with Khalilzad. The deadlock prevented signing of the agreement, and Trump later declared the peace process as dead.

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