The Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) on Tuesday rejected claims that discussions around the withdrawal of foreign troops were held between the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Qatar.
Mohammad Akram Khpalwak, an advisor to the president and head secretary of the High Peace Council said on Tuesday at a conference for academics, analysts and media representatives on the peace process in Kabul that Afghans will not accept the withdrawal of troops until the war ends and there is security and stability in the country.
“It is said that the Taliban and the United States discussed the withdrawal of foreign forces, I completely reject this issue, it has not been discussed,” said Khpalwak.
Khpalwak said that although the withdrawal of foreign forces and the release of Taliban prisoners have been the main the group’s main demands as a precondition to starting talks, no talks of troops withdrawal have so far been held.
The High Peace Council set up a series of meetings with a cross-section of society in order to establish a qualified and inclusive delegation to the peace talks and to search for ways to reach formal talks with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, a number of participants at the conference said that talks about the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan between the Taliban and Khalilzad was alarming.
“If the Taliban accepts just the existence of Bagram and Shurab (Helmand) bases, then no human rights nor women's rights will exist,” said Waheed Muzhda, political analyst.
“If the presence of foreign forces has been based on cooperation, then it is not an invasion,” said Mohammad Amin Ahmadi, a university lecturer.
On the other hand, the head of strategic studies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Faramarz Tamanna had a different view regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops and said: “A Mawlavi (religious scholar) must convince an ideological Taliban who fights for a religious government that here (in Afghanistan) it is already an Islamic government.”
The HPC’s comments come after the Taliban confirmed in a statement the its representatives had discussed the issue of troop withdrawal with Khalilzad.
This after information leaked to the media indicated that Khalilzad and Taliban officials met on Wednesday in Qatar and talked about announcing a ceasefire and freeing a number of Taliban prisoners or at least exchanging them with government prisoners, but that they have not yet reached an agreement in this regard.
On Sunday the HPC deputy head Attaurrahman Salim told TOLOnews that Washington must take into consideration Afghanistan's continued stability and security in peace talks with the Taliban.
Salim said the withdrawal of foreign troops can be discussed once the war has ended in the country and security has been restored.
“The withdrawal of forces is an issue that can be discussed after the establishment of security and the end of the war and it should be discussed nationally,” said Salim.
The withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan has been a key demand by the Taliban for many years; but the High Peace Council said Taliban uses the issue as a “topic for propaganda” while there are much more important issues that should be addressed first.
“Because they have been backed a lot under this issue (calling for forces withdrawal) they want to use it as a propaganda subject, while there are other issues that should come first,” Salim added.