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Mystery surrounds US-Taliban peace negotiations

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KABUL: Eleventh round of Taliban-US negotiations have been propounded by a plethora of speculations about whether an imminent deal between the warring sides will honour a cessation of fighting or its reduction – as there are mixed sets of opinions about both scenarios.

An Associated Press report has been doing rounds that the Taliban had put forward a ceasefire plan to Americans, a claim the militant faction has rebuffed and instead offered a blueprint to reduce violence – which has met with strong opposition by Kabul.

Americans have been engaged in ten rounds of painstaking negotiations with the Taliban since October 2018. After almost 19 years of fighting, America and the Taliban have agreed in principle on a deal envisaging America withdrawing troops in return for assurances that Afghanistan will never again become a haven for international terrorists. America also wants a reduction of violence and the start of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which the militants so far have shrug off.

This is as Taliban spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, has confirmed the Taliban will strike a deal with the United States by the end of January in relation to the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. In an interview with Pakistan’s Dawn, Shaheen said that the group will reduce the scope of its violent activities – including halting attacks in major cities, avoiding suicide bombings and blocking major highways – towards the nearing of the deadline.

But he denied the peace deal will entail a plan for ceasefire, rather it will dictate a reduction in violence – and it concerns the Taliban, foreign forces and government forces.

The contradictory statements come as Kabul is sticking to its guns vis-à-vis recognition of ceasefire as a prerequisite to any advancement of peace talks against the backdrop of the Taliban and the United States’ agreement to move forward with a plan to reduce violence in Afghanistan ahead of a looming peace deal.

“The entire 11 rounds of talks between the United States and Taliban will be a wild goose chase if the ceasefire plan is not implemented,” said President Ghani’s spokesperson Sediq Sediqi at a conference in Kabul.

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