The longest round yet of peace talks between the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban ended in Qatar on Tuesday with a draft agreement on two issues — the withdrawal of American troops and assurances from the terrorist group that Afghanistan will not harbor international jihadis such as its ally al-Qaeda, the top negotiator from the United States revealed on Tuesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled a willingness to pull American troops out of Afghanistan as part of a final peace pact, but his administration has indicated it plans to leave behind a residual force to ensure the Taliban keeps its promises, a proposal that the terrorist group has rejected.
After two weeks of Qatar-based negotiations, President Trump’s Afghan reconciliation envoy overseeing the talks with the Taliban said on Tuesday that the two sides have fleshed out a draft agreement on the two thorny issues.
U.S. presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad did not provide any details about a timeline of the troop pullout. However, recent reports revealed that the Pentagon was planning to offer to withdraw American troops within three to five years. The Taliban rejected that offer, demanding that foreign forces leave in one year.
In a series of posts on Twitter, U.S. presidential envoy Zalmay Khalilzad revealed on Tuesday:
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.
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.
(1/4) 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.
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) March 12, 2019