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‘Pullout, guarantees dominate Qatar talks’

AT News Report

KABUL: In the wake of fresh peace talks with US special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, a Taliban spokesman said the group is close to reaching an agreement with the US on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Spokesman Suhail Shaheen made the comment in Doha, Qatar, following third day of talks among US and Taliban negotiations team that have been started from February 26 and will end today (Thursday).

“If we do not reach a solution in this round of talks, then we will in the next round of talks,” he told AP.

Khalilzad’s past rounds of talks with the Taliban focused on U.S. troop withdrawal in exchange for guarantees of no attacks against the United States, but it was unclear how close he was on a deal on those issues.

He said that in exchange for a U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban would offer guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a staging area for anti-American attacks.

Shaheen said it was very important that Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was in Doha for the talks, saying it showed “how much importance we are giving to these talks and how [high] expectations are.”

Furthermore, New York Times reporter in Kabul, Mujib Mashal tweeted about on day two of actual talks “(first day was just intros) in Doha: working-groups continue on counter-terror guarantees and future of foreign troops in Afghanistan, the sides have been alternating on these two issues. Stanekzai is leading for Taliban now, Baradar stepping back.”

Khalilzad did not comment on the February 26 round, but he posted on Twitter on February 25 that this round of talks could be “a significant moment” in the process of winding down the 17-year U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad had early said he would take the issue of ceasefire and direct Afghan talks with the Taliban members. He also said that this time Taliban are talking with more authority as Mullah Baradar is leading the talks.

Complete ceasefire is of utmost need as last year it was deadliest for civilians with 3,804 deaths recorded by UNAMA in 2018.

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