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Afghanistan

Doha Talks Inch Towards Troop Withdrawal ‘Agreement’

Sources familiar with the Doha talks said that on the fifth day of the US-Taliban discussions in Qatar on Friday, US officials agreed to a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The sources also said that Taliban has agreed to not let al Qaida and Daesh operate in Afghanistan. 

The sources added that US officials have asked for a ceasefire but Taliban has demanded a timeline be drawn up for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan before agreeing to this.

Taliban said they first want to be assured by the US that there will be no threat to regional countries especially Pakistan and then a ceasefire will take place, the sources said. 

In these talks, the sources said, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad asked Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government and said the talks should be aimed at reforms and not for a demand by the Taliban to control Afghanistan. 

However, according to the sources, Taliban has not responded to this call by Khalilzad.

Based on unconfirmed reports, Taliban’s representatives will visit Kabul soon to talk with the Afghan government.

Initially scheduled for only two days, Monday and Tuesday this week, the Doha talks have continued through the week and according to sources were extended for a sixth day on Saturday. 

Ghani Concerned

President Ashraf Ghani meanwhile said in Davos this week that any eventual truce between the insurgents and Afghanistan must respect his country's constitution and legal framework.

The president reportedly made the remarks in Davos during a public conversation.

On the topic of a foreign forces withdrawal, Ghani said only an Afghan-led dialogue should decide the fate of foreign troops in the country.

Ghani said: “The function of ambassador Khalilzad’s office is to bring the Afghan government and the Taliban into face-to-face discussions and negotiations. Within that then, the larger issues of the US presence and other international issues will be addressed.”

Ghani emphasized the need for Washington to take into account the concerns of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Russia and India, before reaching a deal. 

Khalilzad has maintained that since taking office last September, he has been tasked to work for a political settlement to the war through an intra-Afghan dialogue process. Before entering into the latest round of talks with the Taliban on Monday, the Afghan-born US envoy again clarified his stance and underscored the need to first halt hostilities.

“To achieve peace, we are ready to address legitimate concerns of all Afghan sides in a process that ensures Afghan independence and sovereignty, and accounts for legitimate interests of regional states. Urgent that fighting end. But pursuing peace still means we fight as needed,” Khalilzad tweeted.

The Taliban has from the start of discussions in Doha reportedly focused on seeking a timetable for the withdrawal of US and NATO-led foreign troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban has however been asked to give assurances that Afghan soil would not be used to threaten any other country.

On Thursday, Ghani said at Davos that Afghans as a nation and as a state are dedicated to overcoming the past. 

Amid rumors on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Ghani said that US President Donald Trump’s South Asia Strategy was a very thoughtful response to the situation on the ground, as the core of the strategy was to bring peace in Afghanistan.

“The South Asia Strategy is a very thoughtful response to the situation on the ground. First, the core of South Asia Strategy was to bring peace to Afghanistan, and we have welcomed this. Second, it is a conditions-based strategy. We've reformed our security forces,” said Ghani.

Ghani noted that the rules of the game in Afghanistan are set by Afghanistan’s constitution, adding that in 2024, Afghanistan will be self-reliant.

Ghani did however criticize the Taliban and maintained any understanding reached in Doha must be within the Afghan Constitution and take into account Afghanistan’s international, as well as bilateral bindings, including those with the US and NATO.

“They [the Taliban] have relationships with all known terrorist groups. They have relationships with the largest criminal mafia on Earth, which after cocaine, is the heroin mafia. They have an organic relationship with the state of Pakistan that is providing them sanctuary, resources, support and [for] others,” asserted the Afghan president.

Islamabad however rejects charges it hosts Taliban sanctuaries and says it is helping the United States as a shared responsibility to promote regional peace and to help end Afghan hostilities.

Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani government official, while responding to sustained criticism emanating from Kabul, told VOA this week that Pakistan has “sincerely and faithfully diverted the recent positive environment in its relations with the US to the complete benefit of the Afghan peace process and Afghanistan as a whole.”

The official, while speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Afghans may never recognize or admit it, but if any nation after Afghans themselves feels their pain, it is Pakistan.”

Critics have long viewed mutual tension between Islamabad and Kabul as a major hurdle in the way peace in Afghanistan. 
NATO Chief Welcomes Peace Efforts

Addressing a press conference on Friday, NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile said the organization “strongly support the efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the crisis in Afghanistan. 

“And we welcome the initiative taken by President (Ashraf) Ghani and we welcome also the talks between the US and the Taliban, and we hope that that can lead towards a process which includes, of course, the Afghan government,” he said. 

He would not however speculate on the likelihood of a success regarding the US and Taliban talks in Doha but he said it was still extremely important to support the peace efforts. 

Stoltenberg said “the purpose of our military presence in Afghanistan is to send a message to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. 

“So, they have to sit down at the negotiating table and find a political solution,” he said. 

He stated that he was sure any political solution or peace agreement would address the issue of the presence of troops from other countries, including NATO. 

“But it's much too early to speculate exactly what kind of consequences that will have, because that will depend on the character of the agreement,” he said.

Afghanistan

Doha Talks Inch Towards Troop Withdrawal ‘Agreement’

Delegates attending the US-Taliban talks have reportedly reached what might be a preliminary agreement

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Sources familiar with the Doha talks said that on the fifth day of the US-Taliban discussions in Qatar on Friday, US officials agreed to a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The sources also said that Taliban has agreed to not let al Qaida and Daesh operate in Afghanistan. 

The sources added that US officials have asked for a ceasefire but Taliban has demanded a timeline be drawn up for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan before agreeing to this.

Taliban said they first want to be assured by the US that there will be no threat to regional countries especially Pakistan and then a ceasefire will take place, the sources said. 

In these talks, the sources said, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad asked Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government and said the talks should be aimed at reforms and not for a demand by the Taliban to control Afghanistan. 

However, according to the sources, Taliban has not responded to this call by Khalilzad.

Based on unconfirmed reports, Taliban’s representatives will visit Kabul soon to talk with the Afghan government.

Initially scheduled for only two days, Monday and Tuesday this week, the Doha talks have continued through the week and according to sources were extended for a sixth day on Saturday. 

Ghani Concerned

President Ashraf Ghani meanwhile said in Davos this week that any eventual truce between the insurgents and Afghanistan must respect his country's constitution and legal framework.

The president reportedly made the remarks in Davos during a public conversation.

On the topic of a foreign forces withdrawal, Ghani said only an Afghan-led dialogue should decide the fate of foreign troops in the country.

Ghani said: “The function of ambassador Khalilzad’s office is to bring the Afghan government and the Taliban into face-to-face discussions and negotiations. Within that then, the larger issues of the US presence and other international issues will be addressed.”

Ghani emphasized the need for Washington to take into account the concerns of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Russia and India, before reaching a deal. 

Khalilzad has maintained that since taking office last September, he has been tasked to work for a political settlement to the war through an intra-Afghan dialogue process. Before entering into the latest round of talks with the Taliban on Monday, the Afghan-born US envoy again clarified his stance and underscored the need to first halt hostilities.

“To achieve peace, we are ready to address legitimate concerns of all Afghan sides in a process that ensures Afghan independence and sovereignty, and accounts for legitimate interests of regional states. Urgent that fighting end. But pursuing peace still means we fight as needed,” Khalilzad tweeted.

The Taliban has from the start of discussions in Doha reportedly focused on seeking a timetable for the withdrawal of US and NATO-led foreign troops from Afghanistan. The Taliban has however been asked to give assurances that Afghan soil would not be used to threaten any other country.

On Thursday, Ghani said at Davos that Afghans as a nation and as a state are dedicated to overcoming the past. 

Amid rumors on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, Ghani said that US President Donald Trump’s South Asia Strategy was a very thoughtful response to the situation on the ground, as the core of the strategy was to bring peace in Afghanistan.

“The South Asia Strategy is a very thoughtful response to the situation on the ground. First, the core of South Asia Strategy was to bring peace to Afghanistan, and we have welcomed this. Second, it is a conditions-based strategy. We've reformed our security forces,” said Ghani.

Ghani noted that the rules of the game in Afghanistan are set by Afghanistan’s constitution, adding that in 2024, Afghanistan will be self-reliant.

Ghani did however criticize the Taliban and maintained any understanding reached in Doha must be within the Afghan Constitution and take into account Afghanistan’s international, as well as bilateral bindings, including those with the US and NATO.

“They [the Taliban] have relationships with all known terrorist groups. They have relationships with the largest criminal mafia on Earth, which after cocaine, is the heroin mafia. They have an organic relationship with the state of Pakistan that is providing them sanctuary, resources, support and [for] others,” asserted the Afghan president.

Islamabad however rejects charges it hosts Taliban sanctuaries and says it is helping the United States as a shared responsibility to promote regional peace and to help end Afghan hostilities.

Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani government official, while responding to sustained criticism emanating from Kabul, told VOA this week that Pakistan has “sincerely and faithfully diverted the recent positive environment in its relations with the US to the complete benefit of the Afghan peace process and Afghanistan as a whole.”

The official, while speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Afghans may never recognize or admit it, but if any nation after Afghans themselves feels their pain, it is Pakistan.”

Critics have long viewed mutual tension between Islamabad and Kabul as a major hurdle in the way peace in Afghanistan. 
NATO Chief Welcomes Peace Efforts

Addressing a press conference on Friday, NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg meanwhile said the organization “strongly support the efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the crisis in Afghanistan. 

“And we welcome the initiative taken by President (Ashraf) Ghani and we welcome also the talks between the US and the Taliban, and we hope that that can lead towards a process which includes, of course, the Afghan government,” he said. 

He would not however speculate on the likelihood of a success regarding the US and Taliban talks in Doha but he said it was still extremely important to support the peace efforts. 

Stoltenberg said “the purpose of our military presence in Afghanistan is to send a message to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. 

“So, they have to sit down at the negotiating table and find a political solution,” he said. 

He stated that he was sure any political solution or peace agreement would address the issue of the presence of troops from other countries, including NATO. 

“But it's much too early to speculate exactly what kind of consequences that will have, because that will depend on the character of the agreement,” he said.

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