Tal­iban aim to sign with­drawal deal with US by end of month

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Kabul, Afghanista­n - The Tal­iban are aim­ing to reach a with­drawal agree­ment with the US by the end of Jan­uary and are pre­pared to ‘scale down’ mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions ahead of sign­ing the deal, ac­cord­ing to their chief spokesman.

The state­ment by Suhail Sha­heen to Pak­istani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held dis­cus­sions in Doha this week, af­ter in­sur­gent sources said they had of­fered to ini­ti­ate a brief cease­fire.

“We have agreed to scale down mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in days lead­ing up to the sign­ing of the peace agree­ment with the United States,” Sha­heen told Dawn in a re­port pub­lished on Sat­ur­day.

He added that the Tal­iban were ‘op­ti­mistic’ a deal with Wash­ing­ton could be signed be­fore the end of the month and that the re­duc­tion in fight­ing across the coun­try would also in­clude the tar­get­ing of Afghan forces.

“It’s now a mat­ter of days,” said the spokesman.

Wash­ing­ton has for weeks been call­ing on the mil­i­tants to re­duce vi­o­lence, pos­ing it as a con­di­tion for re­sum­ing for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions on an agree­ment that would see US troops be­gin to leave the coun­try in re­turn for se­cu­rity guar­an­tees, af­ter a near two-decade fight.

The Tal­iban and the US had been ne­go­ti­at­ing the deal for a year and were on the brink of an an­nounce­ment in Septem­ber 2019 when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump abruptly de­clared the process ‘dead’, cit­ing Tal­iban vi­o­lence.

Talks were later restarted be­tween the two sides in De­cem­ber in Qatar, but were paused again fol­low­ing an at­tack near the Ba­gram mil­i­tary base in Afghanista­n, which is run by the US. Any agree­ment with the Tal­iban is ex­pected to have two main pil­lars - an Amer­i­can with­drawal from Afghanista­n, and a com­mit­ment by the in­sur­gents not to of­fer sanc­tu­ary to ter­ror­ists - and would ul­ti­mately have to be given fi­nal ap­proval by Trump.


This file photo shows Tal­iban mil­i­tants and res­i­dents cel­e­brat­ing a cease­fire in Kan­da­har province on June 17, 2018

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