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Saturday June 22, 2024

Doha talks from today: Will Taliban, US reach peace agreement?

Highly placed diplomatic sources told The News Sunday evening that Mulla Abdul Ghani Brather will lead the Taliban, while the US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will be heading the US team to sign the deal.

By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
July 29, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban and the United States have choreographed an agreement to bring nearly 18 years of military intervention and bloodshed in Afghanistan to an end, as the latter will provide a schedule for withdrawal of its troops.

In all probabilities, the historic accord would be inked in Doha, Qatar on Thursday (August 1).

The draft of agreement is being fine-tuned by the two sides before its formal announcement and signing.

Senior Pakistani diplomats will be present in Doha on the occasion of signing of the accord.

The accord will pave the way for further enhancing the peace process that will ensure ceasefire and an undertaking by the Taliban that their areas of influence would not be used by any terror group for activities in the country or beyond its frontiers.

Highly placed diplomatic sources told The News Sunday evening that Mulla Abdul Ghani Brather will lead the Taliban, while the US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will be heading the US team to sign the deal.

Brather is already in Doha.

The intra-Afghan negotiations will culminate in an agreement for the future system in the war-ravaged country.

Khalilzad has already discussed with the Afghan government the "next steps in the peace process, including identifying a national negotiating team that can participate in intra-Afghan negotiations," during his recent trip to Afghan capital Kabul, the sources pointed out.

The next two weeks will be crucial regarding future of peace in Afghanistan.

Taliban leader Mulla Haibatullah might travel to Pakistan for his all-important meetings here, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javaid Bajwa, whereas President Ashraf Ghani’s administration will have a maiden interaction with the Taliban leaders in Kabul.

The presidential election in Afghanistan, which has been deferred twice and now September 28 has been fixed for the schedule of the presidential poll, could yet another time be postponed for facilitating Taliban to take part in the process.

The sources reminded that the 8th round of talks between the Taliban and the US in Doha will be initiated today (Monday) and for the purpose Zalmay Khalilzad is traveling to Doha who has already submitted an extensive report to President Donald Trump and State Department in Washington last week.

According to estimates, more than 31,000 civilian deaths have been reported in the 18-year Afghan war.

Reports suggest that 29,900 civilians have been wounded. More than 111,000 Afghans, including civilians, soldiers and militants, are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.

A total of seven US military members have died in Afghanistan in 2019 so far. In March, two soldiers were killed. Currently, the US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.

The sources revealed that the conflicting parties had agreed on so-called “Road-map for peace in Afghanistan.”

Forming such a team is a fraught issue, as the Taliban have been refusing to negotiate directly with the Afghan government.

Washington is hoping for a political agreement with the armed groups in Afghanistan ahead of the Afghan presidential election scheduled for late September.

A breakthrough could pave way for withdrawal of international troops some 18 years after the 9/11 attacks, which led the US to invade Afghanistan to dislodge the Taliban government from Kabul.

Zalmay Khalilzad has had several meetings with the Taliban in the past year, the most recent being in second week of this month.

Earlier, the Taliban and other senior Afghan officials held intra-Afghan talks in the Qatari capital, pledging to deliver a "road map for peace" in Afghanistan.

US President Donald Trump voiced optimism last week that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan could help broker a political settlement to end the war.

"I think Pakistan is going to help us out to extricate ourselves," Trump said, with Khan sitting next to him on Monday last at the start of a White House meeting.