Wednesday, 26 February, 2020

Taliban have negotiated "proposal" for 7 day reduction in violence: Pentagon chief

US Taliban Negotiate Proposed Seven Day ‘Reduction in Violence Afghan security forces keep watch at the site of a blast in Kabul Afghanistan on Feb. 11 2020
Deanna Wagner | 14 February, 2020, 03:53

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: At NATO headquarters today, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he didn't want to get ahead of the diplomacy, but he hinted at what is expected to be in a deal with the Taliban.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he thinks there is a "good chance" the United States would reach an agreement with the Taliban by the end of February on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. "Progress has been made on this front, and will have more to report on that soon, I hope", he added.

"It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward - if we go forward", Mr Esper added.

The Taliban do not recognize the government in Kabul and have refused to negotiate directly with Ghani.

The prospective deal would see the US pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban would provide security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul. "Peace deserves a chance, but it will demand that all parties comply with their obligations if we move forward".

The United States is aiming to cut troop numbers to about 9,000, the diplomat said.

Doha has been the venue for talks between the warring sides since 2018 even as fighting has continued across the country, killing hundreds of civilians and soldiers as the Taliban have expanded their territorial control.

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"And I'm glad to see that intra-Afghan talks are supposed to start if this test is passed".

The number of clashes between the insurgents and US-backed government forces jumped to record levels in the last quarter of 2019, according to a recent USA government watchdog report.

Originally, the Taliban agreed simply that it wouldn't attack important population centers, but USA negotiators pushed for a broader cessation of violence.

Khalid responded to TOLOnews reporter Miraqa Popal's question about peace: "One year ago the Taliban was dreaming of changing the government or dismantling the army, but.no one is going towards a ceasefire and peace blindly". "This time around will be longer and a lot more complex", Kugelman said.

The commanders said they were prepared to launch a spring offensive and had recruited more than 6,000 fighters and suicide bombers if the peace talks fail.

The ultimatum came from 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 who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

A senior Afghan defence official said Kabul was ready to continue fighting if the talks collapse.

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