Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

US, Taliban agree on troops withdrawal, counterterrorism

US, Taliban agree on troops withdrawal, counterterrorism

The talks between Taliban and USA diplomats have lasted longer than any previous negotiations between the two sides since US troops entered Afghanistan in 2001.

The chief US negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, made the announcement in a series of tweets at the end of his team's marathon 16 days of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar.

"It's clear all sides want to end the war".

Undated handout picture of U.S., Taliban and Qatar officials during a meeting for peace talks in Doha, Qatar.

Hours after the news broke on Qatar talks, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said in a tweet that he wrapped up a marathon round of talks with Taliban in Doha.

Khalilzad said when the agreement in draft about a withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures is finalized, the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, will begin intra-Afghan negotiations on a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire.

The talks were held in a closed-off banquet hall at the five-star Ritz-Carlton seaside hotel on the southern end of Doha.

Qatar has hosted the Taliban's political office since 2013 and has looked to position itself as an important regional player for conflict resolution.

The insurgent group's spokesman Mujahid, while talking to Afghan media over the weekend, again ruled out talks with the Afghan government, rejecting those associated with it as "American puppets" and insisting if his group engages in such a process it would be tantamount to recognizing America's "18-year-old occupation" of Afghanistan.

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Taliban fighters attend a surrender ceremony in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on January 22, 2012.

About 17,000 foreign troops are based in Afghanistan as part of a USA -led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some US forces carry out counter-terrorism operations.

The Taliban have held multiple rounds of talks with United States negotiators, but have so far refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government or commit to a ceasefire amid almost daily attacks.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said 20 soldiers had been killed, 28 captured and a large supply of weapons and ammunition seized.Southeast of the Afghan capital, Kabul, in Ghazni city, an air strike on a vehicle killed seven Taliban on Tuesday, including a commander, said Mohammad Arif Noori, spokesman for Ghazni's provincial governor.

A USA -led global force has fought since then against a Taliban insurgency.

Washington is seeking assurances that the Taliban will not allow Afghanistan to be used by militants to carry out terrorist attacks overseas - the reason USA forces invaded the country following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

There are some 14,000 U.S. troops now based in Afghanistan.

Since then, however, the Taliban has regained control or contests more than 50 percent of Afghan territory and continues to inflict major battlefield setbacks on Afghan security forces being backed and trained by the American military.

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