Ayaz Gul – Voice of America
The United States explicitly stated Tuesday it is seeking a comprehensive peace agreement with the Taliban that would cover counterterrorism assurances, withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, intra-Afghan talks to find a political settlement to the war and a permanent cease-fire.
“This is a framework which the Taliban accepts,” tweeted chief American peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad hours after the insurgent group announced Washington has agreed during negotiations to withdraw its troops and not to interfere in Afghanistan in future.
“As we prepare for the next round of talks with the Taliban, important to remember we seek a comprehensive peace agreement, NOT a withdrawal agreement,” Khalilzad said.
Khalilzad, the Afghan-born reconciliation envoy, stressed that the comprehensive peace deal he is seeking with the insurgent group is made up of the four inter-connected parts and “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
The adversaries in the 17-year-old Afghan war, are expected to meet in Qatar in the next few days for a crucial round of peace talks.
The nearly year-long U.S.-Taliban dialogue process has been under fire for failing to make progress toward ending the conflict.
The criticism prompted Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the Taliban’s negotiating team, to defend the peace process, saying the U.S. side has accepted a key Taliban demand.
“America has agreed during the negotiations that they will withdraw all their troops and promised not to interfere in Afghanistan in future. This is a good progress,” Shaheen tweeted Tuesday.
Khalilzad, has acknowledged that in previous rounds of talks with the Taliban the two sides have reached a preliminary framework agreement on troop withdrawal and assurances the Taliban would not to allow international terrorism from Afghan soil.
The U.S. envoy, in a previous statement, has vowed that in the upcoming talks with the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha he would try to conclude a deal on the first two issues.
The Taliban maintains it will not stop fighting or join intra-Afghan peace talks until all U.S. and NATO troops leave the country.