US, Taliban set to sign deal to end Afghanistan war
Statesman Report
ISLAMABAD: The seven-day “Reduction in Violence” (RIV) pact that took effect in neighbouring Afghanistan on Feb 22, is set to culminate in the signing of an agreement between top US and Taliban negotiators today in Doha, the location of the political headquarters of the hardline insurgent group.
The RIV period has passed off largely successfully, and the United States and Taliban look set to sign the agreement to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban not to allow militant groups such as al-Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan.
The US-Taliban agreement, if inked on Saturday, would begin a phased withdrawal of American and coalition forces and would also require the Taliban to initiate a formal dialogue with the Afghan government and other political and civil society groups on a permanent nationwide ceasefire and power-sharing in post-war Afghanistan.
The Taliban now hold sway over half the country, and are at their most powerful since the US invasion in 2001.
Senior Taliban commanders in Doha and Afghanistan said once the deal is signed the group will release 1,000 Afghan prisoners, mostly security personnel and government employees who are in their custody in different parts of the country.
In exchange, the Taliban expects the Afghan government to release their 5,000 fighters.
“We will not join the intra-Afghan dialogue if the US and Afghan government did not honour their commitment to release our prisoners,” said a senior Taliban commander in Doha.
Afghan broadcaster Tolo News said US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg were expected in Kabul ahead of the announcement of the declaration in Doha.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Friday that the signing of the US-Taliban agreement will mutually benefit the entire region, particularly Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Qureshi has reached Doha to attend the signing of the US-Taliban peace deal on Saturday.
The foreign minister said that it is hoped that after a prolonged war, a peace agreement will be signed. He said that the agreement will benefit the entire region, with chances of a gas pipeline project being built in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.
The foreign minister said that when peace will prevail then Pakistan and Afghanistan both will reap benefits and it will also mitigate the energy crisis.
He said that the Pakistani nation gave sacrifices for the sake of peace. “Those who called Pakistan the centre of terrorism are now calling it a partner for peace.”
Last week, Qatar had invited Pakistan to attend the deal signing ceremony between the United States and the Afghan Taliban. On behalf of the Qatari Foreign Minister, the invitation was extended by the Qatari Ambassador to Pakistan Saqr Bin Mubarak during a meeting with FM Qureshi in Islamabad on Tuesday.
In his remarks on the occasion, the foreign minister said Pakistan and Qatar have played a pivotal role in furthering the Afghan reconciliation process. He said it has always been the stance of Pakistan that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. He said the world is now also accepting Pakistan’s stance.