Taliban issues ultimatum to U.S.
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.