US and Taliban work towards peace

Based on inputs by Shahid Kazi

US and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the framework of a deal that could pave the way for peace talks in Kabul and ultimately the withdrawal of American troops from Afganistan raising hopes of a breakthrough in the country’s 17-year conflict.

Under the terms of the draft framework, the insurgents would promise to stop Afghan territory being used by terrorists. In an interview with New York times, US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, confirmed the existence of the draft framework.

Khalilzad said: “The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals. We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out.”

If the talks led to a full deal, US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan within 18 months.

The draft, requires the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and to talk directly with the US-backed Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani – . However Taliban have not agreed to either of these.

The US has re-iterated that the agreement was conditional on a ceasefire and direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistan would be expected to play a key role in persuading the Taliban to show flexibility.

The Americans regarded the talks as serious since one of the most senior officials in the Taliban movement, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was chief negotiator.

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