In what could bring an end to nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan, negotiators engaged in talks in Doha, Qatar, announced Monday a deal has been made to end the 17-year conflict in the war-torn country.
U.S.-led negotiations with Taliban officials, which began on Jan. 21, have produced a draft framework under which the U.S. force of 14,000 troops would withdraw within 18 months of a signed agreement.
“Meetings (in Qatar) were more productive than they have been in the past. We have made significant progress on vital issues. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and everything must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire,” U.S. delegation head, Zalmay Khalilzad, tweeted on Saturday.
According to sources close to the negotiations, in addition to a withdrawal of U.S. troops, the Taliban have agreed to disallow al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorists from conducting militant attacks on U.S. troops and its allies in Afghanistan.
A tentative deal which remains unsigned, U.S. diplomats and Taliban representatives have agreed to an exchange of prisoners, the lifting of a travel ban imposed on Taliban leaders and the notion of an interim government in Kabul after a ceasefire goes into effect.
Despite the progress made, the Afghan government has not been seated at the table. Since negotiations first began to find a resolution to the war nine years ago, the Taliban has repeatedly rejected direct talks with Kabul’s government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has temporized with the concept of an interim government over concern the Taliban would return to power and loss of universal basic rights among the Afghan people.
Mr. Ghani has also expressed a desire to remain head of state and has appealed for face-to-face talks with the Taliban.
Although the U.S. shares Ghani’s concerns, Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman with the group’s office in Qatar, told the Associated Press:
“After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers. After the withdrawal, we are not seeking a monopoly on power.”
Although the talks produced a bodywork for peace, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, conveyed skepticism with the draft agreement. In an interview with The New York Times, Crocker said the proposed draft will virtually guarantee a bleak future for Afghan civilians.
Declaring the agreement “a negotiation to failure,” Crocker said the talks resembled America’s attempt to leave South Vietnam in 1973, and including the Taliban in Afghani politics will facilitate the undoing of humanitarian advances brought about by the U.S. invasion.
Since 2009 alone, it is estimated over 100,000 Afghan civilians have died in the war.
[CNN] [Reuters via The Telegraph] [Photo courtesy AFP via RFE/RL]