The U.S. peace envoy to Afghanistan said Saturday that “significant progress” was made during lengthy talks with the Taliban in Qatar and that he was traveling to Afghanistan for more discussions aimed at ending the country’s destructive 17-year war.
Zalmay Khalilzad said on his official Twitter account that he wants to build on six days of meetings in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
“Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past,” he said without providing details. “We made significant progress on vital issues.”
Taliban officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media said they have reached an understanding on the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops and that Afghan soil will not be used for attacks or threats against the U.S. or other countries.
It wasn’t clear whether Khalilzad is seeking written guarantees from the Taliban that they will distance themselves from al-Qaida operatives, including Ayman al Zawahiri, who live among them or at the very least have safe passage and havens within territory they control.
Zawahiri, an Egyptian, took over the leadership of al-Qaida following the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALS.
There are also believed to be a number of Arabic-speaking jihadis associated with the Haqqani network, considered the most lethal of the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
It wasn’t clear how the U.S. could verify Taliban promises to ensure Afghan territory is not again a staging arena for attacks outside its borders….
Reuters reports that the Taliban says the U.S. and its NATO allies will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan within 18 months. Currently, 14,000 American military personnel are operating as advisers and trainers and occasionally engaged in combat support in the country. If the news is right and the draft agreement becomes reality, it would mean the U.S. would finally leave Afghanistan after nearly 19 years of war that began less than a month after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., in 2001.
The details were given to Reuters by Taliban sources at the end of six days of talks with U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar aimed at ending the United States’ longest war.
They have yet to be confirmed by U.S. officials nor has either side released an official statement. Officials at the U.S. embassy in Kabul were not immediately available to comment. […]
According to the Taliban sources, the hardline Islamic group gave assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants to attack the United States and its allies — a key early demand of Washington.
There was no word from the State Department or other U.S. officials about the draft plan. But Khalilzad tweeted early Saturday:
1/3 After six days in Doha, I’m headed to
#Afghanistan for consultations. Meetings here were more productive than they have been in the past. We made significant progress on vital issues.
Even as the negotiations were underway, the Taliban engaged in nearly daily attacks, including some on Kabul, the capital….
The question is?
Will an absence of US/NATO troops from the country require a REDEPLOYMENT shortly thereafter?