News ID: 264499
Published: 0257 GMT January 18, 2020

Taliban aim to pen deal with US by Jan. 31: Report

Taliban aim to pen deal with US by Jan. 31: Report

The Taliban are geared up to reach a withdrawal agreement with the United States by the end of January and are prepared to "scale down" military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.

The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn came as the Afghan militant group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after Taliban sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief cease-fire, AFP reported.

"We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States," Shaheen told the paper in a report published Saturday.

The Taliban today hold sway over practically half of Afghanistan, staging near-daily attacks that target soldiers, security forces and government officials but also kill civilians.

The US first invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the banner of fighting “terrorism.” The invasion toppled the Taliban, but the terror group has never stopped its attacks.

More than 32,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

Taking the last year’s December death toll into account, at least 20 American troops have so far been killed in Afghanistan last year, making 2019 the deadliest for US forces since 2014, when the Pentagon announced the “end of combat operations” in the country.

Currently, as many as 13,000 US troops remain stationed in Afghanistan.

The Taliban member also added that the group was "optimistic" a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in its attacks across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.

"It's now a matter of days," said the spokesman.

The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process "dead", citing Taliban violence.

Talks later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.

Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars – an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the group not to offer sanctuary to terrorists – and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.

The Taliban's relationship with al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion of Afghanistan more than 18 years ago.

A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.

Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the government in Kabul.

The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider illegitimate.



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