KABUL: As US and Taliban negotiators push to wrap up talks aimed at securing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, disagreement remains about whether a pact will mean an end to the insurgents’ fight with the US-backed Afghan government.US negotiators have been pressing the Taliban to agree to peace talks with the Kabul government and to a ceasefire, but a senior Taliban official said that would not happen.
“We will continue our fight against the Afghan government and seize power by force,” said the Taliban commander. Another Taliban commander said a deal was expected to be signed this week under which US forces, which provide all-important air support to Afghan troops, will stop attacking the Taliban and the militants would end their fight against the US troops.
Under the pact, the United States would also cease supporting the Afghan government, the Taliban officials said.
“The Americans will not come to the assistance of the Afghan government and its forces in their fight against us,” the first Taliban official said.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the veteran Afghan-American diplomat who has been leading negotiations on the US side, however rejected the suggestion that US forces would no longer support the Kabul government, saying “no one should be intimidated or fooled by propaganda”.
“Let me be clear: We will defend Afghan forces now and after any agreement with the Talibs,” he wrote on Twitter in reaction to a report. He added that “All sides agree Afghanistan’s future will be determined in intra-Afghan negotiations,” he said.
The disagreement highlights one of the most sensitive issues surrounding the US-Taliban talks — a resentment among many in the Afghan government that they have been sidelined from talks that will decide the future of their country.
It also raises a question over whether the Taliban leadership will be able to impose any peace agreement on field commanders who may be reluctant to give up fighting when they feel on the brink of victory.In a statement on Monday, the hardline Islamist group accused Salaam, a telecoms company owned by the Afghan government, of spying and warned it would treat its offices, employees and installations as military targets. In June, the Taliban gave Afghan media a week to cease airing anti-Taliban announcements paid for by the government.
There has been no let-up in the fighting over the past year despite the talks. The United States had not stopped conducting air strikes and helping Afghan forces to destroy camps run by the Taliban and fighters of the militant Islamic State, a US official said.
At least 3,812 civilians were killed or wounded in the first half of 2019 in the war against militant groups, including a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and foreign forces, the United Nations said in July.
Two diplomatic sources with knowledge of the ninth round of talks in Qatar said they expected an agreement to be finalised this week, enabling the US to pull out about half its forces.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2019