Taliban and the US peace negotiators in Doha are taking a two-day break after “extensive” discussions on Tuesday and Wednesday on counterterrorism and US troops withdrawal, the Taliban said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement said that the negotiating teams of the two sides will have consultations among themselves in the next two days and will resume the talks on Saturday.
The statement said that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group’s number two and head of Taliban’s Qatar office, in the past three days, met with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Qatari NSA, US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and US and NATO forces commander in Afghanistan Gen. Scott Miller.
US Forces Withdrawal a Key to Peace
On the third day of the talks between US negotiators and Taliban members in Qatar, the two sides had “extensive” discussions on foreign forces withdrawal and assurance to the US that Afghanistan’s territory will not be used as a threat against any other countries following a peace deal.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for Taliban’s political office in Qatar, told reporters in Qatar that the war will come to an end in the country and the Taliban fighters will join the ranks of the Afghan army if the two sides sealed an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
He said talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government is an internal issue and that Taliban is currently carrying out talks with the US about troop withdrawal.
“When the occupation is ended, there is a full withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and there is an Afghan-inclusive Islamic government in the country, I think there is no need for any military operation and war. So, there will be a sustainable peace in the country and all the military people and our people, they will be included in a national army,” said Shaheen.
Shaheen said direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban is an internal issue that should be discussed between the Afghans and that they are discussing external issues which include forces withdrawal and assuring the US that Afghanistan will no more be a threat against them.
Some former Taliban members said if a peace deal is reached with the Taliban, the group will not repeat the mistakes they have made in the past.
“No one should be worried. We won’t have an achievement bigger than stopping war and killing,” said Mawlawi Qalamuddin, Taliban’s minister of vice and virtue during their rule in Kabul – 1996 to 2001.
“The talks are going well and so far they have not reached a final decision. First, a decision should be made about the withdrawal of foreign forces and then they should discuss other issues,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, head of the Council for the Salvation of Afghanistan.
Sources familiar with Qatar talks said that in these three days, working groups from the Taliban and the US have been working on a draft about forces withdrawal and assurance that following the withdrawal of the forces, Afghanistan will not be used as a place of threat against the US and other nations.
According to the sources, it is expected that the two sides will make decisions on Thursday on these two issues and then they will start their talks on a ceasefire and beginning of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.