Troop pullout timeline key for intra-Afghan talks: Shaheen

KABUL (TOLO News): The Taliban has set the timeline on foreign forces withdrawal from Afghanistan as a precondition for engaging in intra-Afghan talks as a delegation from the group is visiting China to meet with officials in Beijing as part of a peace process ahead of their possible talks with the US officials in Qatar.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for Taliban’s Qatar office, said that it is only the Afghan people who will determine the future government in the country, but he did not mention anything about talks with the Kabul government.

“The exact date will be announced today or tomorrow that when the seventh round [of talks] will start. It is clear that when the Americans announce their decision on the timeline of the withdrawal of their forces [from Afghanistan], it will open the way for intra-Afghan talks so that we can decide on the future government and intra-Afghan talks,” said Shaheen.

While the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is heading closer to the end of his recent tour to the region as part of his seven round of diplomatic mission for Afghan peace, but the prospect for a fresh round of talks between the US and the Taliban remains unclear.

Sources familiar with the Afghan peace talks meanwhile said that if the US and the Taliban reach a consensus in the seventh round of talks, then the development will also pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.

“I think the Taliban and the foreigners had reached very close to an agreement in the sixth round of talks, but they couldn’t reach a decision on the exact date,” said former Taliban commander Sayed Akbar Agha.

“Both the US and the Taliban delegations are busy visiting the neighbors of Afghanistan. I think when they complete these visits, the 7th round of talks will start in Qatar. As I know, currently, the Taliban delegation is visiting China and them likely to visit Iran after China. Khalilzad has also visited some countries and is due to visit some more,” said Hassan Haqyar, a political analyst.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, after returning from the 5th summit of heads of state and government on Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Tajikistan has said that a consensus has been built in the international level about bringing peace in Afghanistan.

“Alongside attending the summit we had series of meetings with some heads of states and a general consensus has been built in supporting peace in Afghanistan and all other common threats which exist in the region,” said Abdullah.

The US forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, counterterrorism assurances, a ceasefire and direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban were the main key issues which had been under debate in the six rounds of the negotiators between US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban members.

But Khalilzad has recently clarified that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.