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US, Taliban agree on foreign troop withdrawal says Khalilzad

AT News Report

KABUL: After 16 consecutive days of extensive discussion, eventually on Tuesday evening, US peace envoy and Taliban negotiating team made progress on counterterrorism, troop’s withdrawal and some other issues.

“Just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in Doha. The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad wrote in his twitter account.

“Peace requires agreement on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire. In January talks, we “agreed in principle” on these four elements. We’re now “agreed in draft” on the first two,” he added.

He furthered; “When the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire.”

“My next step is discussions in Washington and consultations with other partners. We will meet again soon, and there is no final agreement until everything is agreed,” he added.

Meanwhile, a meeting between a number of Afghan politicians and the Taliban, which was expected to be held in the next two weeks, has been delayed.

However, Taliban in a statement said “this round of talks saw extensive and detailed discussions taking place regarding two issues that were agreed upon during January talks.”

“Those two issues were the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and preventing anyone from harming others from Afghan soil; how and when will all foreign forces exit Afghanistan and through what method? Similarly, how will the United States and her allies be given assurances about future Afghanistan?

“Progress was achieved regarding both these issues. For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiation teams,” the statement added.

However, the Taliban group said that it should be mentioned that no agreement was reached regarding a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration, nor were other issues made a part of the current agenda.

This comes as recently US said that ongoing talks in Qatar have been focused on four key issues where both sides trying to reach a final agreement.

Robert Palladino, a spokesperson for the US Department of State said four key issues are post-peace deal counterterrorism efforts, intra-Afghans talks, US forces withdrawal and ceasefire.

Moreover, to further facilitate the talks US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he might visit Qatar to give a helping hand in the Afghan peace talks.

“I am hoping he (Khalilzad) makes enough progress and I can travel there in a couple of weeks and help move it along a little bit myself,” Pompeo said.

At the same time there is conflicting reports on Taliban-US talks as some report says both sides agreed on troop’s pullout while another report suggests there was no conclusion and parties promised to meet again at end of March.

A New York Times Reporter, Mujib Mashal wrote in his twitter account that “16 days of US-Taliban talks ended without a clear breakthrough but progress and they will convene again later this month in hopes of finalizing. US officials say a text is ready on counter-terror side and includes al Qaeda. Withdrawal pillar is still slow progress, details not final.”

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