US and NATO top defense officials are encouraged by the recent US talks with the Taliban, which could lead to a peace settlement in Afghanistan and the possible withdrawal of American troops.
The United States' leading negotiator in the talks told the New York Times on Monday that the talks had led to the "framework" of an agreement whereby the Taliban would guarantee that Afghan territory would not be used by terrorists. In return for an American referendum, the US wants the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and negotiate directly with the Afghan government.
But that remains a crucial issue, says a State Department spokesman. The Taliban have refused to engage the Afghan government even as a puppet of the United States.
Another topic is a "comprehensive ceasefire," the spokesman told ABC News, adding that they are "an integral part of a negotiated political solution and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".
Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan described the six days of talks in Qatar as "encouraging talks."
"I would really say the deadweight effect is encouraging," Shanahan told reporters on Monday before meeting with NATO at the Pentagon General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.
The NATO chief also gave an optimistic outlook to the talks, but warned that the discussion on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was premature.
"I think it's too early to speculate, because we must now support the efforts to find a peaceful solution," Stoltenberg said when asked if in the talks the withdrawal of NATO troops Afghanistan is included. "We strongly support this effort."
Shanahan told reporters that he had not been commissioned by the Trump government to begin preparations for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan , ABC News has already reported that the Trump government plans to withdraw 7,000 of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan. Another 8,000 soldiers from 38 other countries are participating in the Train and Advice Mission to assist the Afghan security forces in the fight against the Taliban and the Islamic State.
The State Department spokesman did not disclose details of the agreements that had already been reached, saying only Amb. Khalilzad had made "progress towards a lasting peace and negotiated settlement."
But Khalilzad, who traveled directly to Kabul after the talks ended to inform Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, told the New York Times on Monday: "We have a draft framework that needs to be worked out before it ends becomes an agreement … "The Taliban have undertaken to our satisfaction to do what is necessary to prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals. "
During the weekend, Khalilzad tweeted positive descriptions of the six days of talks with a high-level Taliban representative in Qatar, which said there had been "significant progress on important issues."
1/3 After six days in Doha I go to #Afghanistan for consultations. Meetings here have been more productive than in the past. We have made significant progress on important issues.
– US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (@ US4AfghanPeace) January 26, 2019
The likelihood of a final deal with the Taliban remains unclear, however, as the Taliban have long existed. It is alleged that it will not negotiate Afghan government, a key US position.
Direct US talks with the Taliban began last year, with sporadic contacts with the insurgent group over the last few years.
In his tweets Khalilzad said, "We will build momentum and resume talks soon."
03.02. Will build on the impulse and continue the talks soon. We still have some problems to solve. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and "everything" must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and a comprehensive ceasefire. 19459003 – US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (@ US4AfghanPeace) January 26, 2019
The war in Afghanistan took over 17 years.