PESHAWAR: The Afghan Taliban on Wednesday said they had concluded their peace talks with the United States officials in Qatar and were close to signing a peace agreement.
Senior Taliban members said the talks with the US negotiating team concluded on Tuesday night. They claimed to have resolved “98 percent” of the issues with the Americans. Taliban claimed the United States had agreed to let them use the title of “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” which was the name used by the group when it took over power in Afghanistan in 1996. “Using the title of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was one of our major demands. The US negotiating team constantly refused to agree with us on this and some other points. However, it finally agreed with us and now we would be using the title of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” said a Taliban commander based in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Pleading anonymity, he also claimed that the US had agreed with them to continue using the Taliban white flag.
“The title of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and white flag are our two main identities. And we are happy to have achieved our goals in the talks,” said the Taliban leader. Taliban spokesman for their Qatar-based Political Commission and member of the negotiating team, Suhail Shaheen, also claimed that they were close to a final peace accord. He said he was confident that he would have good news for Afghanistan’s Muslims and freedom-loving people.
Taliban members in Qatar and Afghanistan said that after concluding their ninth round of peace talks with the US, a final joint meeting was held on Wednesday to discuss time and venue for the peace deal signing ceremony.
“We concluded our peace talks Tuesday night and agreed upon all points of the peace agreement. The meeting last night continued long into the night, but it was very productive and we agreed on all points,” said a Taliban leader privy to the peace talks in Doha.
In the joint meeting, he said they would also discuss the list of invitees to the peace agreement signing ceremony. “From today we in the two negotiating teams would separate from each other for the time-being. And the top leadership will now take over the stage,” he said.
Taliban representatives were reluctant to disclose details of the proposed peace accord, but they said that under the deal Taliban and the US would initially announce a ceasefire across Afghanistan.
However, Taliban claimed the Afghan government and its armed forces would have nothing to do with the peace accord and ceasefire. “After signing the accord, we would initiate talks with the Afghan political leadership. People in the government can participate in the intra-Afghan dialogue, but would not represent the government,” said the Taliban leader.
Also, he claimed, the US had agreed with them their forces would not intervene in case of fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces. Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, recently denied this piece of information. Taliban leaders, however, claimed US had committed to them that after signing the peace accord it would cease military operations in Afghanistan. Taliban claimed the US negotiating team had also agreed to withdraw 8,000-10,000 troops from Afghanistan in the first phase soon after signing the peace accord.