Tue, Aug 13, 2019 - Page 6 News List

US-Taliban talks end without agreement

Reuters, KABUL

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center in front of microphones, speaks after offering Eid al-Adha prayers at the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday.

Photo: AP

Talks on a pact that would allow the US to end its longest war and withdraw troops from Afghanistan ended yesterday without agreement and both sides would consult their leaders on the next steps, the Taliban said.

The talks, held in Qatar since late last year, have brought hopes for a deal allowing US troops to leave in exchange for a Taliban promise that Afghanistan would not be used by militants as a base from which to plot attacks abroad.

However, the US is pushing for Taliban agreement on two other elements: power-sharing talks with the US-backed government and a ceasefire.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the eighth round of talks, which a US official said earlier involved technical details of the implementation of the pact, ended in the early hours and both sides would consult their leaders.

“We prolonged our meeting with the hope of reaching a peace agreement but it could not happen,” a member of the Taliban negotiating team in Qatar said.

“We discussed a number of issues and developed consensus on some of them but couldn’t reach a conclusion,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

The US negotiators were demanding that the Taliban announce a ceasefire and start direct talks with the Afghan government.

The Taliban, fighting since their ouster in 2001 to expel foreign forces and establish an Islamic state, responded by calling for the US to announce a roadmap for the withdrawal of their forces, the Taliban official said.

US officials were not immediately available for comment, but the chief US negotiator, veteran diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Sunday that hard work was being done “toward a lasting and honorable peace agreement and a sovereign Afghanistan which poses no threat to any other country.”

An agreement would allow US President Donald Trump to achieve his aim of ending the war, but without a Taliban commitment to power-sharing talks and a ceasefire, there are fears the insurgents will fight on when US forces leave in a bid to overthrow the government.

The government has not been involved in the talks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday appeared to question the talks, saying his nation would decide its future, not outsiders.

“Our future cannot be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends or neighbors. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in Afghanistan,” Ghani told a gathering for prayers marking the Eid al-Adha.

Khalilzad said in his Sunday message that scholars believed the deeper meaning of the festival was to sacrifice one’s ego.

“Leaders on all sides of the war in Afghanistan must take this to heart as we strive for peace,” he said.

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