US envoy for Afghanistan says partial 'draft' agreement reached with Taliban
Announcement came after 13 days of talks between US and Taliban in Doha
The US special representative for Afghanistan announced on Tuesday that a draft agreement has been reached with the Taliban on counter-terrorism assurances and troop withdrawal after 13 days of talks in Doha.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the first US official to lead talks with the extremist group, tweeted on Tuesday that the talks have concluded in Doha and he was on his way back to Washington.
“The conditions for #peace have improved," Mr Khalilzad said. "It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides."
He said a peace agreement would focus on four issues: counter-terrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, including the Afghan government in talks and a comprehensive ceasefire.
“In January talks, we agreed in principle on these four elements," Mr Khalilzad said. "We're now 'agreed in draft' on the first two."
But the draft agreement will need to be finalised, he said.
When that happens, “the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire”, Mr Khalilzad said.
“We will meet again soon and there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”
The Taliban also voiced optimism on Tuesday.
“For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the coming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiation teams,” the group told The Washington Post.
The US waged its war in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban and Al Qaeda in 2001 after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
But despite 18 years of war, the group remains undefeated.
US President Donald Trump has expressed interest in withdrawing troops from America’s longest war but his military generals have said no such order has been given yet.
Now, the US envoy is hoping to seal an agreement before Afghan voters go to the polls in July.
But former US diplomats including Ryan Crocker have warned against legitimising the Taliban before it abandons terrorism, or using the talks as a justification for withdrawal.
“It’s an effort to put lipstick on what will be a US withdrawal,” Mr Crocker told AP in January about continuing negotiations.
Updated: March 13, 2019 09:32 AM