US-Taliban deal: who said what?

The agreement will see foreign forces leave the country in 14 months if committments are met

The United States signed a deal with Taliban insurgents on Saturday that could pave the way toward a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step toward ending the 18-year-war in the nation.

Here is what all sides involved in securing peace in Afghanistan say on the deal.

United States

President Donald Trump says: "There hasn't been a moment like this. We've had very successful negotiations. We think they'll be successful in the end."

"The other side is tired of war. Everybody is tired of war...I'll be meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not-too-distant future. And we'll be very much hoping that they will be doing what they say they are going to be doing. They will be killing terrorists."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the US is "realistic" about the peace deal it signed with the Taliban, but is "seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation."

The secretary of state said he told the Taliban to keep their promise to cut ties with Al Qaeda and keep fighting ISIS.

“Today, we’re realistic. We are seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation built on the hard work of our soldiers, diplomats, businessmen, aid workers, friends and the Afghans themselves. Today, we’re restrained. We recognize America shouldn’t fight in perpetuity in the graveyard of empires, if we could help Afghans forge peace. And we have respect. We believe that the Afghan people are ready to start their own course forward. Today, following the first ever week-long break in fighting in nearly 19 years, I’m proud to announce that the United States has secured separate commitments from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban to hold negotiations for peace. Very importantly, the US-Taliban agreement entails a promise from the Taliban that terrorists can never again operate from Afghan soil.”

Secretary of Defence Mark Esper says the US is committed to relations with the Afghan security forces. "This is a hopeful moment, but it is only the beginning. The road ahead will not be easy. Achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan will require patience and compromise among all parties,"  he said.

The US Embassy in Kabul says, "Today is a monumental day for Afghanistan… it is about making peace and crafting a common brighter future. We stand with Afghanistan.

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says, "I am very suspect of the Taliban ever accepting the Afghan constitution and honouring the rights of religious minorities and women. Time will tell if reconciliation in Afghanistan can be accomplished with honour and security, but after more than 18 years of war, it is time to try."

Afghan government

President Ashraf Ghani says, "We hope the US-Taliban peace will lead to a permanent ceasefire...The nation is looking forward to a full ceasefire."

"All the materials of the ... deal are based on condition, it depends on the Taliban's commitment to the peace deal…There are several points in the deal needs consideration which can be discussed in the talks with the Taliban…Our negotiating team, under the framework of the Afghan government, will be inclusive."

Taliban

Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada says all male and female compatriots will be given their 'due rights' and calls on all Taliban fighters to abide by the agreement with the US.

Taliban lead negotiator Abdul Ghani Baradar said he hopes countries including Pakistan, Indonesia, China, Russia will take part in the future rebuilding of Afghanistan, and said he wants an Islamic system.

Nato

Nato Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg says, "We went in together in 2001, we are going to adjust [troop levels] together and when the time is right, we are going to leave together, but we are only going to leave when conditions are right."

In a statement, the organisation adds: "Recent progress on peace has ushered in a reduction of violence and paved the way for intra-Afghan negotiations between a fully inclusive Afghan national team and the Taliban to reach a comprehensive peace agreement. We call on the Taliban to embrace this opportunity for peace."

United Nations

The United Nations urges the continuation of reduced violence in Afghanistan, welcomes intra-Afghan negotiations and says it is ready to support an Afghan-led peace process that is inclusive of women, minorities and the youth.

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan says, "The United Nations welcomes the commitment expressed by the parties to intra-Afghan negotiations; and urges them to move ahead expeditiously with their preparations to start the negotiations, including through forming a truly representative negotiation team."

United Kingdom

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that "meaningful negotiations between the Afghan leadership and the Taliban" will be the real prize. "I hope this opportunity will be seized," he said. "The only way to achieve lasting peace in Afghanistan is through a political solution."

Pakistan 

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says, "Pakistan had fulfilled its part of the responsibility in terms of facilitating this Peace Agreement. Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbours."

Afghans react to the deal

Esmat, 24, Helmand province, says: "I lost a leg in the clashes between the Taliban and security forces. My father was a tribal elder and six years ago when he was travelling with my 10-year-old brother the Taliban attacked them. Both of them were killed. I listen to the radio every day to find out how far the peace talks have progressed. I support this process and pray daily that the war will end and that peace comes to my country. I really hate the war."

Zarmina, 27, in the Ghazni province town of Tehsang, says: "It was midnight when clashes between the Taliban and security forces began. I didn't know if it was a bomb or a rocket that hit my house. My husband and three daughters were killed. I saw my husband's head blown off. Two of my daughters are alive but all of us suffer from mental problems now. Yes, I am optimistic about peace talks. ... I do not know if peace will be achieved, but it is enough to just end the war."

Wahida, 19, in the Nangarhar province village of Nadir Khil, lost 12 members of her family in an air strike. She says, "I lost two brothers, eight sisters, and my parents. I was also seriously injured and not able to walk anymore. Can I forget that incident? When your family dies in front of your eyes and you hear their painful noises and are not able to help them, can you imagine how it feels? If peace comes and the agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government is done, it will not change my life and bring me back my loved ones. But yes this will change other people's lives. They will not lose their loved ones and this matters a lot."

Hujat Ezat, 22, in Kabul, who lost his brother in an ambulance bomb in Kabul in 2018, says: "My brother Ahmad was 24 years old and it was his last year of university. He was going to the university when the explosion took place. We found only one of his feet. We were waiting for spring to celebrate his wedding, but instead of the wedding we held his funeral ... Our pain will not be cured by peace, but if peace comes at least the rest of the people will not lose their loved ones."

Analysts react to the US-Taliban deal 

President of Crisis Group Robert Malley tells The National: "No agreement is perfect, and the US-Taliban deal is no exception… But it represents the most hopeful step to end a war that has lasted two decades and taken countless American and especially Afghan lives. It ought to be celebrated, bolstered and built upon to reach a genuine intra-Afghan peace."

Kate Clark, co-director, Afghanistan Analysts Network, says, "This is not yet a peace deal it's a withdrawal deal."

"You can't help hoping for something like a momentum being created by this reduction in violence but it didn't happen after the Eid ceasefire (in 2018)… There are many hopes and many fears and many unknowns. Is the Taliban acting in good faith in terms of wanting to seriously negotiate a political settlement to the war with power sharing? Do they see the Afghan government and other Afghans as equals as negotiating partners? Because they haven't done so far. Will the Kabul side be able to get together a negotiating team and a coherent line? What does a U.S. troop withdrawal mean?"

Michael Kugelman, Asia Program deputy director, Wilson Centre, says: "The US-Taliban deal is a major achievement, given how long and fraught the negotiations were. But as tough as it was to get to the finish line, the hardest work is yet to come. An intra-Afghan dialogue will be even more complex and take much more time."

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