Published: Mon, September 02, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

USA special envoy shares peace deal draft with Afghan president

USA special envoy shares peace deal draft with Afghan president

The Trump administration is nearing an agreement with the Taliban that would end America's longest war, the US envoy said Saturday.

Presidential adviser Waheed Omer in a Twitter post said envoy Zalmay Khalilzad again met with President Ashraf Ghani after an initial meeting on Sunday evening upon arriving from Qatar, where the ninth round of US-Taliban talks ended without a final agreement.

The discussions are significant because the Afghan government has been largely sidelined from talks until now, though any eventual deal would require the Taliban to talk to Ghani, whom they view as a U.S. stooge.

The fighting comes in the midst of historic negotiations in Doha between the Taliban and the United States, as the opponents try to agree on terms for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

The United States has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Trump last week told Fox News the US plans to reduce its troop presence to 8,600 and then "make a determination from there". He has been eager to withdraw troops before next year's election and the draft deal easily meets that deadline.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and ousted its Taliban leaders after they refused to hand over members of the Al Qaeda terror group behind the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Taliban had launched a multi-fronted attack on Saturday in its bid to take over Kunduz, to mark its comeback in Afghanistan.

In 2015 the Taliban overwhelmed local forces and briefly seized Kunduz, and it was only retaken by Afghan forces with U.S. air support.

"In principle, we have got there", he said.

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Afghan men bury the bodies of security forces killed in a suicide attack on Saturday, in Kunduz province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019.

The prospective deal centres on USA troop reductions in return for several security guarantees from the Taliban, as well as broader peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government and an eventual ceasefire. The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the government, calling it a US puppet.

But there are concerns among Afghan officials and USA national security aides about a U.S. withdrawal, with fears Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and allow worldwide militants, including Islamic State, to find a refuge.

The attack shows the Taliban "don't believe in the peace opportunity provided by the U.S. and the government of Afghanistan", presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who has spent about a year negotiating with the Taliban, said the draw-down would occur within about four months of a final deal being approved - provided the Taliban stick to their commitments.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

In separate incidents, the Taliban killed six Afghan soldiers in central Ghazni province and five members of a family were killed on Sunday when a rocket fired by Taliban fighters hit a house in eastern Laghman province, officials said.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said at least 34 Taliban fighters were killed in ground and air operations in three areas of Kunduz city and that clearance operations were under way.

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