US and Taliban agree draft peace framework, top envoy says
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to enter into "serious talks" with his government
American and Taliban officials have agreed a draft deal in which US forces would withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for a ceasefire, the beginning of intra-Afghan talks and a guarantee that the country will not become a haven for terrorists, the chief US negotiator said on Monday.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy to Afghanistan confirmed the agreement in an interview with The New York Times, the first time an American official had commented on the deal brokered in surprise talks this month.
Mr Khalilzad flew to Kabul on Sunday where he briefed the government on the progress.
After the briefing, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called for the Taliban to "enter serious talks" with Kabul to avoid becoming a puppet of foreign governments in an address on Monday.
"I call on the Taliban to...show their Afghan will, and accept Afghans' demand for peace, and enter serious talks with the Afghan government," Mr Ghani said.
The US-Taliban draft agreement would include guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a safe haven for terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda – the situation that prompted the US-led invasion in 2001 following the 9/11 terror attacks.
The agreement would secure a withdrawal of US troops in exchange for talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government and a lasting ceasefire, both points treated with scepticism by the Taliban.
A meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban has been a key sticking point for negotiations, with the militant group considering the internationally recognised government a puppet of the United States.
But Mr Ghani appeared sceptical about the draft peace agreement, fearing a rapid withdrawal, leaving a vacuum of power as happened with the Soviet Union.
"We want peace, we want it fast but we want it with a plan," Mr Ghani said in his address Monday.
"We should not forget that the victims of this war are Afghans and the peace process should also be Afghan-led...No Afghan wants foreign troops to remain in their country indefinitely. No Afghan wants to face suicide attacks in hospitals, schools, the mosques, and parks."
The agreement between the US and Taliban emerged after six-days of surprise negotiations in Doha, Qatar.
But the US envoy insisted he had not discussed what a peaceful Afghanistan government would look like.
“I have not entered into what [an interim government] could look like with the Taliban – they would like to talk to me about it, but I have not,” he told The New York Times.
Updated: January 28, 2019 03:30 PM