Contact groups from both sides of the Afghan peace negotiations in Doha resumed their discussions on Wednesday.
The meetings lasted for several hours and were aimed at finalizing the procedural rules and regulations for the formal talks, said a member of the republic's team.
“An agreement has been made on 18 of the disputed points. Our contact groups today continued their discussions on the two remaining items. The perspectives (of both sides) have come closer; however, they have not reached a final agreement on these points so that we could move toward the agenda of the talks,” said Attaullah Ludin, a member of the republic's negotiating team.
“Today the sides continued their meeting. We are doing our best to make progress. Hopefully in one or two days--or in the coming days-- (we will reach an agreement ) about the issue of rules and regulations and reach a decision about the meetings,” said Khalid Noor, a member of the republic's negotiating team.
But sources in Doha said there has been no progress about the agenda of the talks, which is another disputed item.
Meanwhile, the office of Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council of National Reconciliation, said that Abdullah will soon make an official trip to Pakistan to help build a regional consensus for the Afghan peace talks.
On Tuesday, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad testified before the US House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security about the Trump administration’s Afghanistan policy and said that the US will "protect its interests" in all circumstances in Afghanistan and that the "Afghan people will suffer" if there is no peace settlement.
Asked if the Taliban will honor the US-Taliban agreement if US troops are leaving and cannot enforce it, Khalilzad said the reduction in US troops does not mean the US forces cannot carry out their mission. A re-evaluation will be necessary when troops get down to 4-5,000, he said, adding: "I believe we are committed to the terms of the agreement."
The Taliban have made some "positive steps" in breaking ties with Al Qaeda, but they still have some distance to go in honoring their commitments, said Khalilzad, adding that the US withdrawal will be contingent on whether they can deliver on their promises.
“It is also important to stress that since the signing of the agreement, the Taliban has instructed its forces to refrain from attacks on US or coalition forces,” Khalilzad said. “There have been no American deaths as a result of Taliban attacks since the agreement was signed. And we continue to engage regularly with the Taliban...to oversee the implementation of our agreement with respect to these issues and to address issues of concern.”
Khalilzad said that the situation must be arranged so that it is in the best interest of the Taliban to honor the agreement--in terms of continued support and improved international relationships--rather than to rely on trust.
The Taliban and the Afghan government are blaming each other for conducting big operations against each other and ramping up violence.
The Afghan government said the Taliban has initiated at least 7,000 military attacks over the last six months, which have killed and wounded nearly 3,500 civilians. But the Taliban rejected these numbers, saying that the government’s major operations in nine provinces have increased the conflicts.
The remarks by Khalilzad come amid the ongoing negotiations in Doha that have made slow progress over the last 10 days despite meetings between the contact groups of both sides.
The two sides are discussing 20-article rules and regulations for the peace negotiations. The two contact groups are expected to hold more meetings this week to finalize the procedure and then work on the agenda for the talks.