ISLAMABAD: The US must announce a time frame for the complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in order to find a political solution to the conflict, the Afghan Taliban said on Saturday.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Arab News that the two sides had made progress during the sixth round of talks in May, but failed to strike a deal because the US did not set a date for a withdrawal.
Ahead of a new round of talks in Qatar, the date for which has yet to be announced, the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will travel to Doha as “part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that ends the conflict in Afghanistan,” the State Department said in a statement.
“In Doha, he will continue talks with the Taliban to move the peace process forward,” it added.
Shaheen said he is hopeful that “more progress” will be made during the next round of talks, “but the ball is in the US court, as they are to decide a time frame for withdrawal of foreign troops … This will solve the foreign aspect of the problem.”
The date for a complete “withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan will be top of the agenda,” he added. “When the US announces a timeline, we’ll give them a commitment that Afghan soil won’t be used against any country.”
Khalilzad has been urging the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire and start direct talks with the Afghan government, a suggestion rejected by the insurgents.
Shaheen said such talks will be held sometime after the next meeting with US representatives.
The Taliban says it will discuss only two issues with Khalilzad: Withdrawing foreign troops from Afghanistan, and preventing the country from being used against others.