Draft framework for Afghan peace agreed


.S. service members walk off a helicopter on the runway at Camp Bost on September 11, 2017 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.Image copyright
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The conflict in Afghanistan is America’s longest-ever war

US and Taliban negotiators have agreed on a draft framework for a peace deal that would put an end to the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan, Washington’s top negotiator has said.

US negotiators held six days of talks with the Taliban in Qatar, last week.

The Taliban have so far refused to hold direct talks with Afghan officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets”.

But analysts caution that it could be years until any substantive peace agreement is reached.

Mr Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, was in Kabul to brief the Afghan government about the talks.

We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” he told The New York Times in Kabul.

The US State Department confirmed to the BBC that he had been correctly quoted.

The Taliban say they will only begin negotiations with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of US troops has been agreed.

On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a fresh plea to the Taliban to talk directly to his government.

In the New York Times interview, US envoy Mr Khalilzad said the Taliban had pledged not to give terrorist groups safe haven – a key demand from Washington if it pulls out troops.

“The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” he told the New York Times.

Until the interview, Mr Khalilzad had only released a series of tweets about the talks – saying “significant progress” had been made but without providing details.

A senior Taliban official who attended the talks told the BBC over the weekend that both sides had agreed to form two committees to draw up detailed plans on how to implement agreements in principle on two key issues:

  • When will American-led forces be withdrawn from Afghanistan?
  • A commitment from the Taliban that the group will not allow international jihadist groups like al-Qaeda to use the country as a base in the future

The Taliban official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the committees would “identify routes for the withdrawal, and how much time is needed. We suggested six months, but are flexible”.

The Taliban’s power and reach have surged since foreign combat troops left Afghanistan in 2014.

On Friday, Mr Ghani said more than 45,000 members of the country’s security forces had been killed since he became leader in 2014.

It is estimated that about 15 million people – half the Afghan population – are living in areas either controlled by the Taliban or where the militants are openly present and regularly mount attacks.

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