US Taliban Talks – Cease Fire and Troop Pullout Continue to Stall Progress
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in a tweet indicated that an important stage in the Afghan peace process was being reached after wrapping up two days consultations in Kabul. Khalilzad’s trip comes after a break was called in the US-Taliban negotiations following a Taliban-claimed attack on Bagram airbase on December 11.
Before the break, the discussions were focused on a reduction of violence, a ceasefire and intra-Afghan negotiations.
President Ghan met with Khalilzad and the president discussed the ceasefire and the Taliban’s safe havens outside Afghanistan. He also had discussions with the CEO Abdullah Abdullah separately and talked about the reduction of violence and ceasefire to reach a long-term peace in the country a similar discussion was held with the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
A temporary cease fire could be the important stage which may be matched by an announcement of a pull out be US troops in small numbers.
The United States is pressing the Taliban to agree on a ceasefire and engage in intra-Afghan talks before finalizing an agreement with Washington however the Taliban are insisting that ceasefire will be announced only once an agreement is signed on troop withdrawal by the US.
The US has already disclosed plans for withdrawal of 4000 troops form the country but that is not likely to satisfy the anti government forces who had called for a total pullout leaving some at key bases which has been agreed to so far.
The Afghan government meanwhile has said that it will be a difficult task to reach to a durable peace in the country unless the Taliban agree on a ceasefire and be accountable about their links with Pakistan.
Talks with the Taliban should be by one elected transparently by the votes of the people as per the Afghan High Peace Council, thus the two main hurdles seem to be cease fire and announcement of a plan of withdrawal by the US forces from the country.