US, Afghan Taliban Pause Peace Talks for One Day
The Afghan Taliban and the United States took a break from a seventh round of peace negotiations Friday, with the Taliban saying they had made “good progress” over the past six days toward agreeing on a timetable for foreign troops to leave Afghanistan.
The insurgent group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, announced that the dialogue in Qatar “shall resume once again on Saturday.”
While the American side has been tight-lipped about the talks, Taliban officials insisted the two sides have “certainly made good progress” to conclude a draft text outlining a troop withdrawal timetable and guarantees that the Taliban will not support or allow transnational terrorist groups to use insurgent-controlled areas.
Khairullah Khairkhaw, a senior member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, said the two sides had been able to resolve “almost all the differences” on the two issues.
“They [U.S.] have perhaps evolved a troop withdrawal timetable. We are also making our own assessment in consultation with our [Taliban] military colleagues so we know how much time they [the U.S.] would require to leave the country and we can place our deadline before them,” Khairkhwa told pro-Taliban social media.
The Taliban official was among five insurgent leaders released in 2014 from the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention facility in a prisoner exchange that involved American soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
“We are trying to reach an understanding with them on a withdrawal plan which is acceptable to us and they also have no problem with it,” said Khairkhwa.
U.S. officials have not commented on the Taliban’s claims. VOA asked the State Department via email for a reaction and to determine the status of the talks with the insurgents, but there was no immediate response. The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is closed on Fridays, so it did not have a response.
End to ‘occupation’
Khairkhaw went on to explain that the Taliban’s dialogue with the U.S. was aimed at ending the “occupation” of Afghanistan and establishing an Islamic system, including a governance system.
“We are seeking an Islamic government, which is acceptable to all Afghans and in which participation of all Afghans and their rights are ensured,” the Taliban leader said.
During a visit to Kabul last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was seeking an Afghan peace deal before September. However, Pompeo emphasized that the Taliban would have to declare a permanent cease-fire and agree to talk directly to the Afghan government before a peace deal could be finalized.
The insurgent group, however, has refused to engage in talks with the Kabul government, dismissing it as illegitimate and an “American puppet.”
The U.S.-Taliban peace talks come as an intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha, hosted jointly by the Qatari and German governments, is scheduled for July 7-8.
The Taliban have regularly interacted with Afghan opposition politicians, civil society representatives and tribal elders to discuss a future governance system in the country if it eventually strikes a peace deal with the U.S.
But Sunday’s meeting will be the first in which a number of Afghan government officials will also be among the 64 participants traveling from Kabul. The organizers and the Taliban, however, have clarified that Afghan officials will be attending the talks in their personal capacity.
The Taliban, meanwhile, have maintained battlefield pressure on Afghan security forces, capturing new territory and killing more than 200 pro-government forces over the past