KABUL: The US ambassador leading the efforts to forge an agreement with the Taliban met Monday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul and showed him the draft of a proposed agreement with the insurgents.
Zalmay Khalilzad has spent about a year meeting with the Taliban in Doha in a series of talks aimed at ending the US 18-year war in Afghanistan.
The possible agreement focuses on a reduction of US troops in exchange for several Taliban security guarantees, as well as broader peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government and an eventual ceasefire.
Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, arrived in the Afghan capital on Sunday night after a ninth round of talks with the Taliban in the capital of Qatar.
He then met with Ghani and on Monday he showed the Afghan leader a draft of the agreement between the United States and the Taliban, officials said.
The discussions are important because until now the Afghan government has been largely removed from the talks, although any eventual agreement would require the Taliban to speak with Ghani, whom they see as an American puppet.
The intra-Afghan talks will take place in Norway in the coming weeks
"The efforts of the United States and other partners will yield results when the Taliban begin direct negotiations with the Afghan government," Ghani spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters. "We hope that these efforts lead to the end of the conflict."
When asked to describe the agreement, Mr. Sediqqi objected, saying that "the most important thing is that the Taliban's violence cease." "We hope that any agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban will result in peace and ceasefire," he said.
The chief executive of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, said in a statement that he had also been informed and assured of "a deep and sustainable peace in Afghanistan."
President Ghani appointed a delegation of 15 members to meet with the Taliban in the "intra-Afghan" talks scheduled to take place in Norway in the coming weeks.
On Sunday, Khalilzad said the United States and the Taliban were at the "threshold" of an agreement that would reduce violence and pave the way for a "sustainable" peace.
But even when the negotiations have entered their final apparent stage, violence has continued rapidly in Afghanistan.
On Saturday, the Taliban tried to seize Kunduz in the north and on Sunday they launched an operation in the city of Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of the neighboring province of Baghlan.
Afghan officials said Monday that Pul-e-Khumri had been released from the Taliban fighters and that the fight had been restricted to the outskirts.
Afghan forces, backed by local and US air power, were able to prevent Kunduz from falling and repel the Taliban, who briefly took the city in 2015.
Afghan officials said Monday that the city had returned to normal, but in the afternoon a suicide bomber detonated near a security forces base outside Kunduz, killing six soldiers and wounding another 15 people.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan said that mechanical problems had caused a coalition drone to crash in Ghor province.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier that he expected a peace agreement to be finalized before September 1, before the Afghan polls scheduled for September 28.
Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban in Doha, said Saturday that an agreement was "near [be] finished ”but did not specify what obstacles remain.
All last-minute agreements occur less than one month before the presidential elections.
Despite Ghani's repeated insistence that the polls will be carried out, many in Afghanistan are skeptical that they will happen as planned.
Posted on Dawn, September 3, 2019