Taliban Say Latest Talks End on Withdrawal of US from Afghanistan

Afghanistan Eid al-Adha

Afghanistan Eid al-Adha

An eighth round of talks on a pact that would allow the United States to end its longest war and withdraw its troops from Afghanistan ended on Monday and both sides would consult their leaders on the next steps, the Taliban said.

Some in Afghanistan saw it as a response to President Ashraf Ghani, who on Sunday declared that "Our future can not be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends, nemeses or neighbors".

Ghani and his US-backed government have not been involved in months of negotiations between the United States and the Taliban on an agreement for U.S. troops to withdraw in exchange for a Taliban promise that Afghanistan would not be used by worldwide militants to plot attacks. "The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in Afghanistan", Ghani told a gathering for prayers marking the Eid al-Adha Muslim festival. Leaders on all sides of the war in Afghanistan must take this to heart as we strive for peace.

The U.S. envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad has expressed hopes that this will be the last Eid where Afghanistan is at war. "We stand with them and are working hard toward a lasting & honorable peace agreement and a sovereign Afghanistan which poses no threat to any other country", Khalilzad tweeted.

The deal also could include a cease-fire and stipulate that the Taliban would negotiate with Afghan representatives, though the insurgent group has so far refused to negotiate with Kabul representatives, dismissing the Afghan government as a US puppet. A day later the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that targeted security forces in Kabul.

The Taliban control roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since the USA -led invasion toppled their five-year government in 2001 after the group had harbored al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

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This comes as negotiations are underway between the US and Taliban leaders to find a political settlement to the ongoing violence in Afghanistan.

Last week, the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive, dismissing an offer of peace talks by President Ashraf Ghani. We don't want a peace in which Afghans wouldn't have dignity.

"The Afghan people want a strong, efficient and responsible government, and this is not possible without elections", Ghani said. The militants, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law to Afghanistan, said their campaign was a response to a more aggressive USA military strategy adopted a year ago, which aims to force the militants into peace talks. We don't want a peace that would cause people to leave their country. "We don't want brain drain and we don't want investment drain".

A peace deal would be followed by intra-Afghan talks, but it is not clear whether the Taliban would agree to talk to Kabul government members in their official capacity or only as ordinary Afghans, as in the past. However, both the Islamic State group's affiliate and al-Qaida remain active in the country.

The U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formally concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.

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