Afghan Taliban: Trump administration ‘appears serious’ in talks
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Afghan Taliban: Trump administration ‘appears serious’ in talks

“An agreement was reached on a principle framework…which, if implemented, and if the Americans take honest steps and stick to it truthfully, then God willing we are hopeful that the Americans will end the occupation of Afghanistan,” a spokesman for the Taliban who goes by the name Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters on Friday. “It appears that Trump is serious,” the spokesman added. He claimed a complete foreign troop pullout would pave the way for “the establishment of an Islamic system,” which would be sought through “negotiations with different political sides, even if they have so far been under the umbrella of the invaders.” Mujahid said that, in the group’s planned system, “all Afghans, including different political sides,” could take part. He denied that the Taliban would want to monopolize power and said that if the Kabul government collaborated, “there will be no need for war and conflict.” The spokesperson said the next round of the talks with the US would take place in the Qatari capital of Doha on February 25. Mujahid’s comments came only a day after Trump expressed hope that an eventual agreement with the group could lead to a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Washington and the Taliban ended six days of negotiations in Doha last week, with Kabul saying that the US had assured Afghan officials that the focus of the talks was on finding a way to facilitate peace and ensure foreign troop withdrawal not on the establishment of a government. A senior US government official told Reuters the talks had made “significant progress.” Some observers have, however, been less optimistic about the talks. Speaking to the CNN on Thursday, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker expressed concern that the US has engaged in talks with the Taliban without the involvement of the Kabul government, describing it as a “dangerous concession” to the militant group. “If this is a course we’re going to continue on, this is very much a surrender negotiation,” Crocker said. The US has nearly 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission. The US and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to topple a Taliban regime that ruled over much of the country. But the militancy that ensued continues to this day. According to a report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published in October last year, the Afghan government only controls 55 percent of the country’s territory, while the militants control 12 percent. About a third of the country is contested and is neither fully controlled by the government nor the militants.

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