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Kabul-Taliban Negotiations Will Prioritize Ceasefire

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KABUL: A long-sought-after negotiation between the Afghan government and the hardline Taliban is expected in less than ten days, with both sides obligated to discuss ceasefire to end almost two decades of unrest.

Washington and the Taliban signed a peace agreement Saturday in Qatar, in which the Taliban have agreed to launch intra-Afghan negotiations on March 10. The government of Afghanistan will engage in talks with the Taliban to discuss the date and modalities of a comprehensive ceasefire, including joint implementation mechanisms.

The arrangements will be announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap for Afghanistan. Guarantees and enforcement mechanisms preventing the use of Afghan soil by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies constitute an important part of the deal.

Another salient feature involves guarantees, enforcement mechanisms and announcement of a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan.

The peace agreement includes a 14-month deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, political settlement resulting from intra-Afghan dialogue, a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, and guarantees to prevent the use of Afghan soil by any terrorist groups against the security of the US and its allies.

The historic deal was signed by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban’s chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Doha, Qatar – which was the base of marathon talks for 18 months. The protracted negotiations led by the chief US negotiator culminated into a “weeklong reduction in violence” last week which saw a drastic decline in fighting and guerilla warfare.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Taliban to honour its commitments. “I know there will be a temptation to declare victory, but victory for Afghans will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper,” he said at the Doha ceremony.

The peace deal also proposes the release of 5,000 Taliban members from prison. A negotiating team was sent last week to Doha to speak to the Taliban about the group’s demand to set 5,000 of their prisoners free – a demand Kabul has shrugged off before intra-Afghan dialogue.

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