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US soldiers in Afghanistan
Image: picture-alliance/Getty Images/T. Watkins

US wants 'good deal' with Taliban

Shamil Shams
September 7, 2019

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reportedly postponed a planned visit to the US, where he was expected to discuss Kabul's concerns over a potential US-Taliban agreement with President Donald Trump.


Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy for Afghanistan, returned to Doha on Thursday after holding extensive talks with Afghan officials in Kabul about a potential agreement with the Taliban.

In Kabul, Khalilzad shared the details of a draft agreement with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other government officials.

The recently concluded ninth round of US-Taliban talks in Doha  raised hopes about an agreement between the two sides to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

Ghani's planned visit to Washington on Saturday could have been a step forward in sealing the deal, but its postponement indicates that the Afghan government and US President Donald Trump's administration are not on the same page over a future political setup in Afghanistan.

Read more: Afghanistan's rights activists express concern over US-Taliban talks

Taliban spokesman: Ceasefire 'on the agenda'


'A good deal'

On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that while Washington was seeking a political agreement with the Taliban, it would not accept any kind of deal.

The Taliban have also stepped up attacks in Afghanistan, apparently to demonstrate their strength on the battlefield.

Read more: Is Kunduz attack a Taliban tactic to influence Doha peace talks?

"The United States' view is that the best way forward is a political agreement and that [is what] we're working diligently on right now; that doesn't mean we'll take any deal," Esper said during a press conference in Paris with his French counterpart.

"We will make sure we have a good deal, a good enough deal that guarantees at least the security of our countries going forward and a brighter path ahead for the Afghan people," he added.

A draft accord with the Taliban would ensure a safe withdrawal of thousands of US troops from the war-ravaged country in the coming months. In exchange, the militants would guarantee that the areas under their control would not be used against the US and its allies.

A final peace agreement, however, would depend on the success of subsequent intra-Afghan talks.

The US ended its combat mission in 2014, although 20,000 US and NATO military personnel remain in the country, mainly to train and support Afghan troops.

Read more: Afghan forces repel Taliban's Kunduz offensive

US-Taliban talks: Afghan women worried about their future

Afghan reservations

An agreement between the US and the Taliban is likely to increase President Ghani's problems at home. Analysts say that a US-Taliban deal would diminish the chances of holding a presidential election in September. And without his reelection, Ghani would be in a weaker position to negotiate his terms with the Taliban.

Ghani made it clear earlier this month that he did not want foreign nations to interfere in the country's affairs — an indirect message to Washington.

In a televised speech, Ghani referenced the upcoming presidential elections and said that "without a legitimate and strong government that comes through an election, Afghans won't be able to achieve a dignified peace."

"Our future cannot be decided outside, whether in the capital cities of our friends, nemeses or neighbors. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in this homeland," Ghani said. "We don't want anyone to intervene in our affairs."

Ghani emphasized that peace was only possible "between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement."

US-Taliban deal 'won't be fruitful' without Kabul being on board

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