Ghani reassures Afghans as USA envoy reports progress on Taliban talks

Minnie Murray
January 30, 2019

"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", he told the Times.

The sides are working on a ceasefire that would lead to a sequenced agreement for dialogue, initially between the United States and Taliban and then between the Taliban and Afghan government, a source with knowledge of the talks told the CNN last week.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan - the only countries to recognise the Taliban regime of the late 1990s - have also all participated in the talks, but the Afghan government has complained of being cut out of them.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in turn assured his people Monday that no deals would be made without Kabul's awareness or participation.

"Our commitment is to provide peace and to prevent any possible disaster", Ghani said. The president added that any peace agreement should respect the government's "national unity and national sovereignty".

"U$3 ntil the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is agreed upon, progress in other issues is impossible", the statement read.

The Taliban have been staging near-daily attacks targeting Afghan forces, causing scores of casualties every week.

Direct U.S. talks with the Taliban began last year, the culmination of sporadic contacts with the insurgent group in recent years. To the contrary, this is the same Taliban that enabled the September 11 attacks by giving al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to operate; that triggered the American-led invasion on October 7, 2001, after refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden; and that continues a close alliance with al Qaeda to this day.

"Of course we don't seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan", the official said in the capital Kabul. "We want peace quickly, we want it soon, but we want it with prudence", he said.

The Trump administration's strategy has been to put pressure on the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.

That is, even when the USA and Taliban reach an agreement in principle on the framework for the US withdrawal and for counterterrorism measures, that - its implementation will still be conditional on the cease-fire and an agreement on a political resolution. "At the same time, none of the Afghans wants the foreign forces to stay in their country for the long term", he noted.

Top U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defense officials are encouraged by the recently concluded U.S. talks with the Taliban that could lead to a peace settlement in Afghanistan and the possible withdrawal of American troops.

Ghani said based on an global agreement, foreign troops will not be required in the future. Shortly after assuming office, however, he was convinced to stay, and even increased the number of USA troops in the country by some 4,000.

In light of Khalilzad's report back, Ghani on Monday addressed the nation in a televised message and called on the Taliban to engage in direct talks with government.

Even if the US and Taliban can agree a way to bring the militants to the table with Kabul, any specifics will be the subject of "thorny negotiations, in a long battle of wills among more stakeholders than the Taliban and the US", Osman warned. Trump has already said he wants to pull half of them out, according to USA officials. President Ghani said last week that about 45,000 security force members had been killed since he took office in 2014. Khalilzad did not confirm the statement and there was no immediate comment from the US Embassy.

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