The US and the Taliban negotiators have made progress on establishing safe zones once the American forces started leaving Afghanistan, sources familiar with the ninth round of the talks in Doha said.
The sources said that based on the safe zone strategy, there will be ceasefire announced in every province from where US forces would leave while nationwide ceasefire will be implemented after the complete withdrawal of American forces.
A Taliban spokesman in Doha Suhai Shaheen who is also part of the group’s negotiating team said in a tweet on Monday that last the two sides had lengthy discussions on Sunday evening which lasted until midnight and today, Monday, the Taliban will convene an internal meeting after which they will again resume discussions with the US negotiators.
At the same time, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, rejected the reports which say the United States will stop funding the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces as part of a peace deal between the US and the Taliban.
Mr. Khalilzad who leads the US in the talks with the Taliban in Doha said that no one should be “intimidated or fooled by propaganda” regarding the US’s support to the Afghan security forces.
“We will defend Afghan forces now and after any agreement with the Talibs. All sides agree Afghanistan’s future will be determined in intra-Afghan negotiations,” Khalilzad tweeted.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has reiterated the call on the Taliban to accept the demand of the Afghan people and engage in intra-Afghan talks as soon as possible.
“Peace talks are yet to begin between the two sides, but there are some efforts underway by the two sides and it is the right time that the opposite side [the Taliban] honor the demand of the Afghan people,” said Mr. Abdullah who is one of the frontrunner candidates in the September presidential election that the Taliban have vowed to disrupt by launching attacks.
This comes as US Senator Lindsey Graham asked Trump administration not to reduce the number of US forces in Afghanistan less than 8,600 soldiers.
“Mr. President, if you don’t have a counter-terrorism force left behind, even if you got deal with the Taliban which I doubt but you might they have no the capability or will to protect the American homeland. Every national security advisor to this president unanimously believes we need a robust counter-terrorism force to make sure that ISIS and al-Qaeda do not regenerate in Afghanistan to hit the American homeland,” Graham said in an interview with CBS.
When asked how many US troops should remain in Afghanistan, Mr. Graham said: “The number is gonna be around 8,600. To go below that I think would be really risky.”
Journalists who are covering US-Taliban talks in Doha have also reported progress on bilateral issues between the two sides.
“The two sides also talk about the delegation which will be appointed by the Afghan government to negotiate with the Taliban and that the delegation should include all political parties,” said Afghan journalist Sami Yousufzai.
This comes a day after representatives of two mainstream political parties in the country said that a potential peace agreement between the US and the Taliban will not lead to sustainable peace in the country unless there is an agreement on a ceasefire.
Ove the past one year, the US officials and senior negotiators from the Taliban have held discussions over a potential agreement that is focused on four key issues: a Taliban assurance that it will not allow Afghanistan’s territory to be utilized by anyone as a launchpad to conduct attacks outside the country, the complete withdrawal of US and NATO forces, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.