Alwaght- The Taliban militant group said on Saturday the gap is narrowing in talks with the US over a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The two sides are continuing to meet in Qatar, where the insurgent movement maintains a political office.
In a voice message to The Associated Press, the Taliban spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, said both sides have offered new proposals for drawing down US and NATO forces. This would be a significant initial step toward a deal to end nearly 18 years of war and America’s longest military engagement.
“There are proposals to lower the gap between the two sides, but (it) still needs negotiation to reach a final agreement,” he said in an English language statement.
Other Taliban officials familiar with the negotiations had earlier told AP that the U.S. was seeking a year and a half to withdraw its estimated 14,000 troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban wanted it done in six months. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
It remains unknown what new proposals either side has brought to the table.
Talks between the US and Taliban, which began last year with the appointment of Washington’s peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, have focused on a timetable for a US withdrawal as well as Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used as a staging arena for global terrorist attacks. The US also wants guarantees that the Taliban won’t harbor terrorists and that the insurgent group will help in the fight against an ISIS affiliate that has taken root mostly in eastern Afghanistan.
The Taliban's five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the US invasion in 2001 but 18 years on, Washington is seeking truce with the militants.
President Donald Trump has said he intended to reduce the number of US forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban have said the US promised them to withdraw half of its troops although the timing for the pullout has not been finalized.
The US forces have remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Trump.