KABUL/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – As U.S. and Taliban negotiators push to wrap up talks geared toward securing the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, disagreement stays about whether or not a pact will imply an finish to the insurgents’ battle with the U.S.-backed Afghan authorities.
FILE PHOTO – Afghan safety forces stand guard close to the positioning of an assault in Jalalabad, Afghanistan March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Parwiz
U.S. and Taliban officers have been negotiating in Qatar since final yr on an settlement centered on the withdrawal of U.S. forces, and an finish to their longest-ever warfare, in change for a Taliban assure that worldwide militant teams is not going to plot from Afghan soil.
U.S. negotiators have been urgent the Taliban to comply with peace talks with the Kabul authorities and to a ceasefire, however a senior Taliban official mentioned that may not occur.
“We are going to proceed our battle in opposition to the Afghan authorities and seize energy by pressure,” mentioned the Taliban commander on situation of anonymity.
U.S. President Donald Trump is impatient to get U.S. forces out of Afghanistan and finish the 18-year warfare that was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults on america.
However there are fears amongst Afghan officers and U.S. nationwide safety aides U.S. troop withdrawal might see Afghanistan plunged into a brand new spherical of civil warfare that would herald a return of Taliban rule and worldwide militants, together with Islamic State, discovering a refuge.
One other Taliban commander, who additionally declined to be recognized, mentioned a deal was anticipated to be signed this week below which U.S. forces, which offer all-important air assist to Afghan troops, will cease attacking the Taliban and the militants would finish their battle in opposition to the U.S. troops.
Underneath the pact, america would additionally stop supporting the Afghan authorities, the Taliban officers mentioned.
“The People is not going to come to the help of the Afghan authorities and its forces of their battle in opposition to us,” the primary Taliban official mentioned.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the veteran Afghan-American diplomat who has been main negotiations on the U.S. facet, nevertheless rejected the suggestion that U.S. forces would not assist the Kabul authorities, saying “nobody must be intimidated or fooled by propaganda”.
“Let me be clear: We are going to defend Afghan forces now and after any settlement with the Talibs,” he wrote on Twitter in response to the Reuters report. He added that
“All sides agree Afghanistan’s future shall be decided in intra-Afghan negotiations,” he mentioned.
The disagreement highlights probably the most delicate points surrounding the U.S.-Taliban talks – a resentment amongst many within the Afghan authorities that they’ve been sidelined from talks that can determine the way forward for their nation.
It additionally raises a query over whether or not the Taliban management will be capable to impose any peace settlement on area commanders who could also be reluctant to surrender combating once they really feel on the point of victory.
The Taliban, combating to expel international forces and re-establish a theocratic Islamic state since their ouster in October 2001, have refused to speak to the federal government, denouncing it as a U.S. puppet though they’ve raised the opportunity of negotiations after the deal on the U.S. withdrawal is struck.
The militants now management extra territory than they’ve since 2001 and the warfare has floor right into a stalemate with casualties rising amongst civilians in addition to combatants.
Some 14,000 U.S. troops stay in Afghanistan, coaching and advising Afghan forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations.
About 17,000 troops from NATO allies and companions make up a NATO-led prepare, advise, help mission known as Resolute Assist in Afghanistan. Out of these, about eight,000 are from america with the others from different NATO members and companions.
The Taliban are demanding the withdrawal of all international forces.
In a press release on Monday, the hardline Islamist group accused Salaam, a telecoms firm owned by the Afghan authorities, of spying and warned it might deal with its workplaces, staff and installations as army targets.
In June, the Taliban gave Afghan media per week to stop airing anti-Taliban bulletins paid for by the federal government.
There was no let-up within the combating over the previous yr regardless of the talks. The US had not stopped conducting air strikes and serving to Afghan forces to destroy camps run by the Taliban and Islamic State fighters, a U.S. official mentioned.
At the very least three,812 civilians had been killed or wounded within the first half of 2019 within the warfare in opposition to militant teams, together with an enormous enhance within the variety of casualties brought on by authorities and international forces, the United Nations mentioned in July.
Two diplomatic sources with information of the ninth spherical of talks in Qatar mentioned they anticipated an settlement to be finalised this week, enabling the U.S. to tug out about half its forces.
An finish to the combating between the Taliban and Afghan authorities forces must be negotiated individually, they mentioned.
“A ceasefire between the Afghan forces and the Taliban requires a separate settlement and deliberations are but to start,” mentioned one diplomat who has monitored the Qatar talks.
“The U.S.-Taliban settlement will cease U.S. from conducting air strikes on the Taliban, and the Taliban will cease insider assaults on the U.S. and different international troopers,” the diplomat mentioned.
One Western diplomat mentioned preparations had been being made for talks between the rival Afghan sides in Norway. A gaggle of at the very least 30 Afghans had been recognized by the federal government and its allies to speak to the Taliban.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban political workplace in Doha, mentioned negotiations had gone on late into Sunday.
The 2 sides would meet once more afterward Monday after inner talks within the morning, Shaheen mentioned.
“Our assembly with the U.S. staff will resume within the early night,” he mentioned.
Most points had been resolved however a proper settlement had but to be concluded, he mentioned.
Further reporting and writing by Rupam Jain; Modifying by Robert Birsel