The Taliban is aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and is prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, the Taliban's chief spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, told Pakistan’s daily newspaper Dawn on January 18.
“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn.
“The purpose (of scaling down) is to provide safe environment to foreign forces to withdraw from Afghanistan,” he added.
“There is no agreement on ceasefire,” Shaheen insisted. “It’s a reduction in our military operations,” he said. “It is our prerogative to see how, when and where to scale down our military operations and it’s not going to be restricted to foreign forces only. The scaling down will be blanket and shall include all forces including state forces.”
In the meantime, the Taliban’s chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said less than two weeks ago that the war will come to an end in Afghanistan once the US forces withdraw from the country.
“The war will end when the US withdraws from Afghanistan,” said Baradar in an interview with US PBS's FRONTLINE in a Jan. 6 interview in Qatar. Baradar is one of the founders of the Taliban and the group’s chief negotiator with the US.
On Sunday, Presidential Palace spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said, "all allies" of the Afghan government, as well as the "people of Afghanistan," are "insisting on a ceasefire" before the next step in the peace process.
In this latest round of peace talks in Qatar, the Taliban has reportedly agreed to a reduction in violence for a 10-day period which means the group will not carry out attacks in urban areas, sources close to the meetings say.
Addressing a press conference in Kabul on Saturday, Sediqqi said talks are underway between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s team and the Taliban negotiators, but there has been "no progress so far," referring specifically to discussions about a ceasefire or reduction in violence.
Sediqqi said that ending the war and bringing peace to the country are priorities of the government of Afghanistan and “the president and the people of Afghanistan have always insisted on a ceasefire.”
The Taliban "should accept a ceasefire if they are really interested in peace," as it is the "demand of the people of Afghanistan," he said.