Qatar – The US-Taliban are working out an agreement that may result in the ending of Afghanistan’s 18 year-long conflicts.
Currently, a series of talks between US diplomats and the Taliban’s representative is underway in Qatar’s capital Doha.
In 2001 US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, accusing them of sheltering Al-Qaeda extremists involved in September 11 attack.
However, despite all the efforts, the Taliban has managed to survive US-led troops for years. About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan to train, assist and advise Afghan forces.
U.S. military intervention, costing Washington an estimated one trillion dollars, and more than 2,400 American military personnel.
The talks, now in their eighth round, begun Saturday and resumed on Sunday morning after pausing overnight. The main schema of talks is to reduced the forces in Afghanistan to as low as 8,000 from the current level of 14,000.
In exchange, the Taliban would abide by a ceasefire, renounce Al-Qaeda, and start talks with the Kabul administration.
The two sides with hard work/negotiations of nearly one year, have almost drafted a text in which “we have addressed all major issues,” says Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the Taliban negotiating team.
Taliban negotiators have done their part, and it is now up to the American side whether they have “made up their mind” and take the next step of winding up the dialogue process, he asserted.
A Taliban source also said efforts were underway to organize a direct meeting between US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar, who heads the movement’s political wing.
The chief Taliban negotiator, Sher Abbas Stanikzai, earlier this month acknowledged that issues such as a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be taken up in the intra-Afghan talks.”
Officials privy to the talks say “a peace agreement could possibly be expected before August 13th” and would enable foreign forces to “leave the conflict-torn nation.”
“We are pursuing a peace agreement not a withdrawal agreement, a peace agreement that enables withdrawal,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US negotiator in Afghanistan tweeted on Friday as he arrived in Doha.
Washington is eager to get the peace deal done by September – ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential elections due in 2020.
But any deal requires the Taliban to talk to Kabul.
Even if the US-Taliban talks bear fruit, the thorny issues of power-sharing between the Afghan Government and Taliban remain unresolved.