US troops would withdraw from Afghanistan within 18 months of full agreement
'US and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the framework of a deal that could pave the way for peace talks in Kabul and ultimately the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, raising hopes of a breakthrough in the country’s 17-year conflict.
Under the terms of the draft framework, the insurgents would promise to stop Afghan territory being used by terrorists. The US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, confirmed the existence of the draft in an interview with the New York Times (NYT).
The draft, thrashed out in lengthy talks in Qatar that ended on Saturday, requires the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and to talk directly with the US-backed Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani – two conditions which the Taliban have not agreed to.
If the talks led to a full deal, US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan within 18 months.
The optimism expressed by Khalilzad in his NYT interview may yet be dashed by dissent within the Taliban or opposition from the government in Kabul. Ghani immediately expressed his doubts about a rushed process from which his ministers had been excluded.
Last week Ghani acknowledged that more than 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces had died since 2014, a far higher number than previously thought. The Taliban runs more than half the country and has not slowed the rate of attacks during the lull that normally occurs in winter. The group is increasingly confident that the US is losing the will to continue the war.'
Read more: US framework deal with Taliban raises hope of Afghan peace