Reuters is reporting that a deal has been reached between the Taliban and U.S. negotiators in Qatar to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and bring the troops home.
The details of the draft were given to Reuters by Taliban sources at the end of six days of talks with U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar aimed at ending the war, more than 17 years since American-led forces invaded Afghanistan.
It stipulates that troops would leave within 18 months of the agreement being signed.
Is the Taliban jumping the gun?
While no joint statement was issued, Khalilzad tweeted later that the talks had made “significant progress” and would resume shortly, adding that he planned to travel to Afghanistan to meet government officials.
“Meetings here (in Qatar) were more productive than they have been in the past. We have made significant progress on vital issues,” he wrote, adding that numerous issues still needed work.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and everything must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire,” he said in the tweets.
It should be noted that there has never been such significant progress in talks between the Taliban and the U.S. At the same time, it sounds like an agreement is still a long way off.
“In 18 months, if the foreign forces are withdrawn and ceasefire is implemented then other aspects of the peace process can be put into action,” a Taliban source said, quoting from a portion of the draft.
More talks on the draft are expected in February, again in the Qatari capital Doha, the Taliban sources said.
They expect their side to be led by new political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the movement’s co-founder and a former military commander who was released from prison in Pakistan last year.
While they said his appointment had boosted momentum for a deal, it was unclear if he joined the talks.
Most notably, the government of Afghanistan will have something to say about whether the deal is acceptable or not. Part of the reported agreement includes the establishment of an interim government in Afghanistan after all foreign troops have been withdrawn. President Ashraf Ghani heads a shaky government and will be extremely wary of any agreement that includes sharing power with the Taliban.
But Ghani will have little choice. The 17,000 American troops in Afghanistan may have been relegated to a training and support role, but their presence may be the only obstacle to the Taliban winning a complete victory. The terrorists already control half of Afghanistan.
I think it’s a foregone conclusion that once the U.S. leaves, it’s only a matter of time before the Taliban is able to effect a complete takeover of the government. Assurances by the Taliban that they will not allow either al-Qaeda or ISIS to establish bases in Afghanistan is small consolation when you consider the blood and treasure we’ve expended over the last 17 years in America’s longest war.