US-Taliban talks inch closer to landmark deal

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters): Talks between the U.S. and the Taliban continued for the sixth day in Doha on Saturday, with the latter reportedly seeking an international guarantee for the proposed peace deal.

As the talks extend from the initial two-day agenda to sixth day, both sides are keeping cards to the chest, with no official statements about the state of these discussions.

Waheed Mujda, a former Taliban-era official and expert on the group, told Anadolu Agency a broad consensus has been reached on the withdrawal of foreign troops and that no threats would emerge from Afghanistan to the rest of the world.

However, Mujda said the nitty-gritty remains to be sorted, and the Taliban seek an international guarantee for the proposed peace process.

“The agreement in Doha has not been finalized yet due to the technical issues and the language of it,” he said.

The Taliban have been resisting U.S. pressure for the announcement of ceasefire and direct talks with the Afghan government, a source close to the militant group told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, said in Kabul before leaving for Doha last week that Washington would stand firm by Kabul, and if the Taliban wish to continue with the war, America would fight them, and if they want peace, peace would be sought.

The talks in Doha have given birth to cautious optimism for peace in Afghanistan with a number of pro-truce demonstrations in major urban centers across the country.

Crippling death toll

Two days earlier, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani told the World Economic Forum in Davos, that more than 45,000 Afghan security personnel have lost their lives since he took the office in September 2014.

“The Taliban have a series of interrelationships that are below the surface. They have relationships with all known terrorist groups; they have relationships with the largest criminal mafia on earth, which after cocaine is the heroine mafia,” he said.

Ghani stressed the reason that the international forces are present in Afghanistan is not because of Afghanistan, but because of the 9/11 incident which cost the United States government and society $500 billion.

In its 18th year, the raging Afghan conflict has evolved into war of nerves with mounting casualties among all four parties, the rebels, government, civilians and the international forces.

Statistics compiled by Anadolu Agency indicate at least 150 security forces, 184 civilians and 14 NATO forces, while hundreds of armed insurgents got killed in a series of deadly instances during the month of December alone.