The Taliban maintained on Monday that a peace agreement with the United States to end the nearly 18-year-old war in Afghanistan is coming soon.
“The U.S. agreed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and resolve the Afghan issue peacefully,” Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) on Monday.
Shaheen refused to elaborate on the timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Zabihullah Mujahid, another Taliban spokesman, told Voice of America (VOA) on Saturday that negotiators are fleshing out the details of a mechanism for pulling out U.S.-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.
Inshallah [God willing], this time we are hopeful that each and every thing will be finalized. Work is underway to streamline the mechanism, but there is no such sticking point left that is not agreeable.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump insisted that the United States is planning to leave behind a residual force in Afghanistan.
The limited American presence is expected to ensure the Taliban keeps its end of the peace agreement.
VOA suggested that the residual force may only remain in the country until the end of 2020. President Trump, however, said the United States will “always” maintain a presence in Afghanistan.
Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai, the top Taliban peace negotiator, recently described the potential agreement as a victory for the terrorist group.
He boasted that the Taliban brought U.S.-led foreign forces to “their knees” in war, VOA learned from a video disseminated Saturday by media outlets friendly to the terrorist group.
“I believe that Americans will leave Afghanistan very soon. Americans stand defeated, and Afghanistan will again be liberated,” Stanekzai declared.
The Taliban and the United States are currently engaged in the ninth round of peace negotiations in Qatar, which began last Thursday. Both sides have been discussing an end to the Afghan war for over a year.
So far, the U.S. has agreed to pull out the vast majority of foreign forces in exchange for Taliban assurances that Afghanistan will not harbor international terrorists such as its ally al-Qaeda and rival Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
The U.S. also expects the Taliban to accept a ceasefire with U.S.-backed Afghan security forces. Moreover, the U.S. demands that the Taliban agree to intra-Afghan talks. Reuters, however, reported Monday that the peace pact with the United States would not prevent the terrorist group from targeting U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.
“We will continue our fight against the Afghan government and seize power by force,” a Taliban commander told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“The Americans will not come to the assistance of the Afghan government and its forces in their fight against us,” the commander reportedly added.
President Trump has repeatedly said he plans to leave behind a limited force in Afghanistan to keep tabs on the Taliban despite rabid opposition by the terrorist group to the proposal.
On Friday, Shaheen told Dawn that the Taliban and the United States had reached an agreement on a time frame for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
“We have an agreement on a time frame for the withdrawal”‘ he said, without elaborating further. “Discussions are now focused on its implementation mechanism.”
For months, the main point of contention between peace deal negotiators has been finalizing details behind the timeframe for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
Taliban jihadis continue to refuse to recognize the Afghan government, dismissing it as an American “puppet.”
The Taliban, which is fighting to establish a sharia-compliant Islamic emirate, considers itself the only legitimate government of Afghanistan.
Asked if the terrorist group is planning to sit with the Kabul after negotiators finalize a peace deal, Shaheen told AA:
Of course, we will talk with all Afghan sides. That also includes the Afghan administration, but it will be one of the sides and a party of the conflict, not as the government.
We want an Islamic government in Afghanistan participated in by all Afghans, from all ethnicities, all walks of life, all groups so it will be a very strong Islamic government.
Taliban narco-jihadis have stressed they will only negotiate with the Afghan government after the complete withdrawal of foreign forces.
It remains unclear exactly what the peace deal between the United States and the Taliban will entail because negotiations continue.
The Trump administration hopes to announce a pact by September 1.