Afghan Taliban say agreement reached on framework for peace talks

Monitoring Report

KABUL: Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents said they have reached an agreement with the government on the framework for peace negotiations, more than two months after the two sides began direct talks in Doha.

The terms for the negotiations, comprising 21 articles, have been approved by both parties, Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Doha, said on Twitter. The Afghan government did not immediately comment.

The talks aim to end 19 years of conflict following the 2001 US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban region. However, there has been no let-up in insurgent attacks since the talks began despite repeated government calls for a ceasefire.

A key disagreement in Doha has been whether a US-Taliban deal should serve as the basis for the Afghan-Taliban talks, a position rejected by the government. The peace deal the United States signed with the militants on February 29 requires the Taliban to cut ties with all terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, in exchange for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The US has started withdrawing forces from the country and will reduce its troops to 2,500 from 4,500 by January 15, with more scheduled leave by May. The Afghan government has expressed concern over what it considers a premature withdrawal that could leave the country in civil war. �