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USA-Taliban form committees for withdrawal of foreign forces

31 January, 2019

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The United States and Afghan Taliban have decided to form two technical committees to prepare recommendations for the withdrawal of foreign forces and to prevent Afghanistan from being used against other countries, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Wednesday.

Shaheen told Daily Times from Qatar that the committees are expected to start working from next week and will present their reports during the next round of talks to be held on Feb 25.

The Taliban and the US officials held wide-ranging talks in Qatar on Jan 21-26 and both sides reported progress in the talks. US envoy on Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad led an 11-member delegation in the talks while Taliban’s eight-member team was headed by Sher Abbas Stankezai.

“The US has agreed with our demand to withdraw all troops and we have committed to ensure that Afghan soil will not be used in future against the US and other countries,” the Taliban spokesman said. “We did not accept the US calls for ceasefire and negotiations with the Kabul administration. The US suggested ceasefire during the withdrawal. We have told them that we will not talk to Kabul administration until foreign troops stay in Afghanistan,” he said.

Both committees will present their reports during next round of talks to be held on Feb 25

Meanwhile, the Taliban on Wednesday released more parts of a video interview of head of Taliban political office Sher Abbas Stanekzai, who says the UN, OIC, major powers and regional and neighbouring countries will be present as guarantors when the Taliban and the US sign agreements on the withdrawal of troops and Taliban will give commitment to stop using Afghan soil against others. “We have convinced the US that issues related to the US will be discussed with them and those related to Afghanistan’s internal issues will be discussed with Afghans and tribes at an appropriate time,” Stanekzai said.

“US has concerns that Afghanistan was used against them in the past and they want to ensure Afghan soil is not used against them in future. They want no one should act against the US and if it is ensured then they are ready to withdraw all foreign troops whether American or NATO forces. We have told them that even a single foreign soldier is not acceptable on Afghan soil,” the Taliban chief negotiator said. “We told them that Jihad will continue even if a single soldier stays in Afghanistan. They assured us that they would withdraw all forces.

The US side also assured us that they neither want permanent presence of troops nor military bases. They told us that they want withdrawal of forces if they are satisfied that the Afghan soil will not be used against them,” he said. Taliban do not talk to the Kabul administration as it is an ‘illegal government, which has been imposed through force by the US, he said, adding that President Ashraf Ghani can neither decide to keep the foreign troops nor ask them to leave as he has no powers and it is only “up to the US to decide whether or not to stay’. “So how can we talk to a powerless person?” he asked.

Stanekzai said the Taliban officials have made it clear that all US soldiers, their military advisers, trainers, intelligence agents and non-combatant force will leave, and even those who they say protect the US embassy in Kabul. “Protection of US embassy is the responsibility of the future Afghan government. But if they want to keep some guards inside the embassy, then US will have to discuss it with the Afghan government,” he maintained.

“Taliban will honour their commitments and prove it. But if the other side breaks promises, then we will have the right not be bound to act upon what we had committed. But I believe it will not happen as all major powers and the UN will be witness of the deal.

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