The Taliban says it is hopeful an agreement will be reached with the United States to end the war in Afghanistan when the two sides meet later this year.
For nearly a year, Taliban and U.S. representatives have been taking part in peace negotiations.
Suhail Shaheen speaks for the Taliban negotiating team. He told VOA the negotiators were close on wording of an agreement about “all major issues.” He added that the issue now rests with the American side.
“We hope to reach an agreement on the troops’ withdrawal,” Shaheen said.
U.S chief negotiator Zalamay Khalilzad has been in Afghanistan for more than a week. He reported Wednesday that he is going to Qatar for talks with the Taliban.
"In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours and conclude the agreement we have been working on," Khalilzad wrote. The Afghan-born Khalilzad added that he was in Kabul to finalize a negotiating team for intra-Afghan talks.
His comments appeared on Twitter.
Shaheen told VOA that any written agreement would include a plan for U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban would guarantee that “Afghan soil, particularly areas under our control” do not become a platform for transnational terrorism, he said.
The Taliban spokesman added that international guarantors will be present for the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement. He said they might include China, Russia, the United Nations, and neighbors of Afghanistan, including Pakistan and Iran.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to reduce the U.S. military’s presence in Afghanistan, which began in 2001. The war has cost an estimated $1 trillion. More than 2,400 American soldiers have died in the conflict.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump told him to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan by the 2020 election.
Trump wants to “end the endless wars,” Pompeo noted.
Once the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban is final, it will require the Taliban to immediately enter into negotiations with other Afghan groups.
Sher Abbas Stanikzai is the chief Taliban negotiator. He told VOA that delegates to the intra-Afghan talks will take up issues such as a permanent ceasefire.
Stanikzai told VOA, “We are committed that when the final agreement is signed with the Americans for the withdrawal of their troops…we will go to the inter-Afghan dialogue.”
The government of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly said it would be leading the inter-Afghan talks. This angers the Taliban, which has refused to negotiate directly with Gani's government.
Khalilzad ended the arguing Saturday by publicly explaining who will attend the intra-Afghan negotiations.
“They will take place between the Taliban…and an effective national negotiating team…of senior government officials, key…party representatives, civil society and women,” he wrote on Twitter.
Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace
The government in Pakistan is playing an important role in the peace process. It helped to set up the U.S.–Taliban talks and wants to see the process through to its end.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Washington in July and discussed Afghanistan with Trump. Khan promised to meet with Taliban leaders to persuade them to accept the results of the intra-Afghan talks.
On Tuesday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed Pompeo’s statement about the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
Afghan officials are worried of Pakistan’s efforts. They say Pakistan has helped Taliban leaders continue terrorist activities in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government denies the claim.
Reports from Islamabad say U.S. diplomat Alice Wells will arrive in Pakistan next week for talks about the Afghan peace efforts. There is no official confirmation available from either side about her reported visit.
I’m Ashley Thompson.
VOA’s Ayaz Gul reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
conclude – v. to finish somethings
intra – prefix on the inside; within
platform – n. something that allows someone to tell a large number of people about an idea
trillion – n. the number 1,000,000,000,000
commit – v. to carry out; to promise to do something
dialogue – n. discussion