United States and Taliban agree draft framework for Afghanistan peace deal

US-Taliban talks offer glimmer of hope for peace

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday to try to secure cooperation from Afghanistan's president after breakthroughs in peace negotiations with Taliban leaders in Qatar.

Taliban and USA representatives, meeting in Qatar last week, outlined but did not formally agree on a broad plan in which US troops would leave the country in exchange for the insurgents pledging to ensure that Afghan territory would not be used by them or other Islamist militant groups to harm American interests.

Afghan political analyst Waheed Muzhda says he believes Khalilzad and the Taliban have reached agreement on both the withdrawal of USA forces from Afghanistan and a ceasefire deal, but that neither side is prepared to say so at this point.

However the Taliban have long refused to speak directly to Ghani's government, branding them "puppets".

Monday's statement quotes Khalilzad as saying he held talks about a cease-fire with the Taliban but that there was no progress yet on that issue.

A senior Taliban official who attended the talks told the BBC over the weekend that both sides had agreed to form two committees to draw up detailed plans on how to implement agreements in principle on the two key issues: when US-led troops could be withdrawn from Afghanistan, and whether the Taliban would deny jihadist groups from using the country as a base.

Both parties have cited "progress" as hopes rise that the unprecedented length of the negotiations could mean a deal paving the way for Afghan peace talks may be in sight, although sticking points remain.

Ghani said in a televised address that the presence of foreign forces was based on an worldwide agreement and they will not be required forever.

"Your question (a question posted by TOLOnews about the peace process) is beyond the capacity of the Afghan people and the world".

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Civilians continue to pay a awful price for the Taliban insurgency, with some estimates showing the Afghan conflict overtook Syria to become the deadliest in the world in 2018.

During the meeting with Ghani on Sunday evening, Khalilzad rejected media reports claiming he and the Taliban discussed the formation of an interim administration in Afghanistan, according to the statement. The unnamed official said the Taliban representatives had requested a break in the negotiations to speak with the group's leadership about the US demand for talks and a ceasefire between the militants and the government in Kabul.

USA and Taliban envoys have "a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement", chief US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad told The New York Times.

Ghani sought to assure Afghans that no deals would be made without Kabul's awareness and full participation. "The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for global terrorist groups or individuals".

On Saturday Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that until a withdrawal timetable is decided, progress on other issues is "impossible". The US invaded Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks to topple the Taliban, who were harboring Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

On Jan 27, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan's efforts helped bringing the United States and the Taliban to a negotiation table.

The Taliban and USA officials have agreed to continue negotiations, though no date has been publicly announced. Even while engaging in the talks with the US, the militants have continued to stage deadly attacks on Afghan security forces.

Afghan security forces are already taking staggering losses, with 45,000 killed since late 2014, and morale is low.

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