US, Taliban to sign peace deal in February?
The peace talks had been deadlocked in part over a US demand that the insurgents agree to significantly reduce violence as part of any American troop withdrawal accord.
A US-Taliban peace deal could be signed this month if the Taliban significantly reduces violence, and that deal could lead to the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, two Afghan government sources and a Western diplomat said on Wednesday.
Their statements came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said there has been a possible breakthrough in US-Taliban talks in Qatar.
Meanwhile, the New York Times has also reported that US President Donald Trump “conditionally approved” the peace deal with the Taliban.
But the deal will "only be signed if the Taliban prove their commitment to a durable reduction of violence over a test period of about seven days later this month," the report said.
If the reduction in violence is upheld, then a US-Taliban agreement is expected to lead to intra-Afghan talks, the Times reported.
The talks had been deadlocked in part over a US demand that the insurgents agree to significantly reduce violence as part of any American troop withdrawal accord.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in separate phone conversations with Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah informed both leaders of "progress" in the US-Taliban talks.
Ghani tweeted about his conversation, and Abdullah's office issued a statement.
Today, I was pleased to receive a call from @SecPompeo, informing me of the notable progress made in the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban. The Secretary informed me about the Taliban’s proposal with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence.— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) February 11, 2020
This is a welcoming development and I am pleased that our principal position on peace thus far has begun to yield fruitful results. Our primary objective is to end the senseless bloodshed.— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) February 11, 2020
To do so, the Afghan people stand with us with their full consensus and I assure them that their leadership maintains the courage, competence, and the necessary resources to achieve this objective.— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) February 11, 2020
There are currently about 13,000 US forces as well as thousands of other NATO troops in Afghanistan, 18 years after a US-led coalition invaded the country following the September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
Trump had earlier said: "In Afghanistan, the determination and valor of our warfighters has allowed us to make tremendous progress, and peace talks are underway... I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent. It is also not our function to serve other nations as law enforcement agencies.
"These are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all," the US President continued. "We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home!"