Tal­iban is­sues ul­ti­ma­tum to U.S.

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD - By Kathy Gan­non and Deb Riech­mann Kathy Gan­non and Deb Riech­mann are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

IS­LAM­ABAD — The Tal­iban have is­sued an ul­ti­ma­tum to Washington af­ter weeks of talks with a U.S. peace en­voy, de­mand­ing a re­ply on their offer of a seven­day re­duc­tion of vi­o­lence in Afghanista­n, or they would walk away from the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, two Tal­iban of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

A re­duc­tion in vi­o­lence deal for a very short pe­riod is sought by the Tal­iban be­cause they don’t want to com­mit to a for­mal cease­fire un­til other com­po­nents of a fi­nal deal are in place. They have pre­vi­ously said a cease­fire could blunt their bat­tle­field mo­men­tum if the U.S. or Kabul re­nege on their prom­ises.

The de­vel­op­ment comes as Washington said late Tues­day that an agree­ment on the in­sur­gents’ “re­duc­tion of vi­o­lence” offer was days away. Also, Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani tweeted that he had re­ceived a phone call from U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo telling him of “no­table progress” in the talks with the Tal­iban.

The ul­ti­ma­tum came from the chief Tal­iban ne­go­tia­tor Mul­lah Ab­dul Ghani Baradar, who met ear­lier this week with White House en­voy Zal­may Khalilzad and the Qatari for­eign min­is­ter, Mo­hammed bin Ab­dulrah­man Al Thani, ac­cord­ing to two Tal­iban of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the ne­go­ti­a­tions. They spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they are not au­tho­rized to speak to the me­dia.

There was no im­me­di­ate re­sponse from Washington on the ul­ti­ma­tum, which ap­peared de­signed to fo­cus the ne­go­ti­a­tions on Tal­iban de­mands. The Tal­iban main­tain a po­lit­i­cal of­fice in Doha, the cap­i­tal of the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, where Khalilzad of­ten meets their rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the talks that are seek­ing to find a res­o­lu­tion to Afghanista­n’s 18­year war, Amer­ica’s long­est con­flict.

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