By Ayaz Gul
U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday a seven-day partial truce with the Afghan Taliban has “been holding up” and it could eventually lead to his signing of a peace deal with the insurgent group scheduled for this week.
Trump’s remarks came a day after the “reduction in violence” truce took effect across Afghanistan on Saturday, with all parties to the 18-year-old Afghan agreeing not launch offensive operations for a week.
“I want to see how this period of a week works out,” Trump told reporters before his departure on a trip to India. He said the cooling off period has “been holding up” but Trump stressed that progress over the remaining days was key to taking next steps in the Afghan peace process.
The “reduction in violence” is meant to pave the way for U.S. and Taliban officials to sign a comprehensive agreement in Qatar later this week that would set the stage for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops to bring an end to America’s longest war.
“If it works out over the next less-than-a-week, I would put my name on it, yes. Time to come home,” Trump said when asked whether he would sign the U.S.-Taliban agreement Saturday. “And they (Taliban) want to stop. I think the Taliban wants to make a deal, too. They’re tired of fighting,” the U.S. president said.
The two adversaries have negotiated a draft agreement in contentious off-and-on negotiations spread over a period of 18 months, hosted by Doha, Qatar. The gulf state is where the Taliban also maintains its political office.
Meanwhile, a senior Qatar foreign ministry envoy reportedly visited the Afghan capital, Kabul, Sunday where he met with President Ashraf Ghani and other political figures to discuss the upcoming signing ceremony, among other issues. Mutlaq Bin Majed Al-Qahtani later shared details of his meetings with the Afghan TOLO TV channel.
“Quite important countries and organizations, permanent and non-permanent members in the security council, neighboring countries and all the stakeholders — all those countries who are going to support the peace process of Afghanistan —will attend the signing ceremony,” the channel quoted Al-Qahtani as saying. “Hopefully, we can conclude this and sign it in Doha on the 29 this month,” the envoy added.
The Taliban-Afghan peace talks are expected to begin within two weeks of the signing of the agreement, if they lead to a further reduction of violence, the United States will initiate a significant troop reduction over a period of several months.
The U.S.-Taliban agreement provides a timetable for the withdrawal of American and coalition forces from Afghanistan, Taliban counterterrorism guarantees, and a process for political reconciliation between Afghan parties to the conflict through an intra-Afghan dialogue process.
If Washington is satisfied with the progress in intra-Afghan talks, it will continue to reduce its forces according to a roadmap outlined in the agreement with the Taliban. A complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, however, will be linked to progress in the reconciliation talks and the Taliban’s anti-terrorist assurances.