KABUL: Upcoming talks between the Taliban and the US will focus on the timetable for pulling all foreign forces from Afghanistan, according to a senior Taliban member.
The Taliban’s political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP that previous negotiations with Washington saw the two sides agree to a total withdrawal, with only the details needing to be fleshed out.
“In our last round of talks with the US side, we agreed with them on withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan,” Shaheen said in Doha.
In return for a withdrawal, he said the Taliban have committed to preventing terror groups using Afghanistan as a safe haven or for launching attacks on other countries.
“But still there are some details to be discussed, and this discussion will take place in our next round of talks and that is about (the) timetable of the withdrawal of forces from the country and other details,” Shaheen said.
The next round of talks is expected to take place in Doha in the coming weeks, but no dates have been formally announced.
US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is leading the talks for Washington, said after the latest round ended that “real strides” had been made, but he insisted no agreement was reached on when the US and other countries might leave Afghanistan.
Afghan-to-Afghan talks were scheduled to start on Friday in Qatar, but were scuttled after a falling out over who should attend.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani over the weekend to express Washington’s disappointment over the indefinite postponement of Afghan talks with the Taliban and to condemn the insurgent’s latest “spring offensive.”
The gathering would have marked the first time that Taliban and Kabul government officials sat together. It was considered a significant first step toward finding a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan, America’s longest conflict, and the eventual withdrawal of US troops from the country.
The State Department said Pompeo called Ghani on Saturday over the postponement and also condemned the recent Taliban announcement of starting another offensive this spring.
The announcement itself was just a show of strength since the Taliban have kept up relentless near-daily attacks even during the harsh winter months, inflicting staggering losses on the embattled Afghan military and security forces. Many civilians also loss their lives in the cross-fire.
In his phone call with Ghani, Pompeo encouraged both sides to agree on participants, saying the talks are Afghanistan’s best chance at peace.