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June 24, 2019

Timetable for troop withdrawal ‘key to progress in Afghan peace talks’

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June 24, 2019

KABUL: The US and Taliban negotiators are expected to reach to some type of conclusion on a timetable for troop withdrawal as well as intra-Afghan talks in the next round of their meeting which will take place at the end of this month, two former members of the Taliban said.

This would be the seventh round of the US-Taliban talks which according to the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, will begin on June 29. Earlier this month, the Afghan government announced to release almost 900 Taliban prisoners. So far, figures show that almost 400 of the prisoners have been released.

A former Taliban member Abdul Shakoor Mutmaen said the release of the prisoners can have a good impact on the talks. “These are key negotiations because the Taliban [prisoners] have been freed from prisons and we are very much hopeful that the talks will end with a positive result,” he said.

“A timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces [from Afghanistan] is the key to progress in the talks,” said Mawlawi Qalamuddin, a former Taliban member. “Talks with the Afghan government will begin and other issues will be solved if there is an agreement on this [the timetable].”

Announcing the date for the next round of talks, Khalilzad said in a tweet that on Saturday that as per his visits to Afghanistan and Qatar, all sides — the Afghan government, the Taliban, Afghan politicians and members of the public — want “rapid progress”.

This comes as at least 57 Afghan politicians, including Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, second deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqeq, and presidential candidate Abdul Latif Pedram, attended the Afghan peace conference in Pakistan which was titled the “Lahore Process”.

In an address to reporters on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the meeting is a “complementary” of peace efforts in Doha, Moscow and other countries. Presidential candidate Mohammad Haneef Atmar told reporters on Saturday that said he welcomes the meeting in Pakistan and that it was a good platform for the exchange of views between Afghan politicians and Pakistani officials.

Atmar said the two sides discussed Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and the Afghan peace process. “We stressed that there should be progress in both fronts: in the peace efforts and the bilateral relations,” he said. Atmar mentioned that the “blame-game” between Afghanistan and Pakistan has not helped the two countries and that the Pakistani should come up with practical steps on their promises.

Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, meanwhile, said he welcomes any effort for promoting peace in Afghanistan. “The figures who are invited will judge by themselves that how much the [meeting] will benefit peace in Afghanistan. The debate about peace anywhere in the world is not forbidden in my opinion,” Abdullah told TOLOnews on Sunday.

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