Afghanistan's Taliban ruling council ready for ceasefire with US
The Taliban’s ruling council has agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan, providing a window in which a peace agreement with the United States can be signed, officials from the militant group have said. They did not say when it would begin and there was no immediate response from Washington.
A ceasefire had been demanded by Washington before any peace agreement could be signed. A peace deal would allow the US to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America’s longest.
The US wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups. The US has an estimated 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.
The Taliban chief must approve the ceasefire decision but that was expected. The duration of the ceasefire was not specified but it was suggested it would last for 10 days.
Four members of the Taliban negotiating team met for a week with the ruling council before they agreed on the brief ceasefire. The negotiating team returned on Sunday to Qatar where the Taliban maintain their political office and where US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding peace talks with the religious militia since September 2018.
Talkswere suspended in September when both sides seemed on the verge of signing a peace pact. However a surge in violence in the Kabul killed a US soldier, prompting Donald Trump to declare the deal “dead”. Talks resumed after Trump made a surprise visit to Afghanistan at the end of November announcing the Taliban were ready to talk and agree to a reduction in violence.
Even as the Taliban were talking about ceasing hostilities, insurgents carried out an attack in northern Afghanistan on Sunday that killed at least 17 local militiamen.
Last week, a U.S. soldier was killed in combat in the northern Kunduz province.