SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: With Khalilzad and his boss U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well Taliban officials, hailing progress toward ending America’s longest war, he must now win over President Ashraf Ghani — whose government the Taliban have so far kept out of the process.
Six days of talks ended in Qatar on Saturday with key parts of a draft pact mapped out, including an 18-month timeline for the withdrawal of foreign troops after the completion of a deal, according to Taliban officials.
The draft also includes assurances from the hardline group that it will not allow Afghanistan to be used by al-Qaeda and Islamic State to attack the U.S. and its allies – a core U.S. demand. Similar assurances involving other groups are given to Pakistan in the draft pact.
The Taliban also want to be part of an interim government after any ceasefire, Taliban sources said.
It was not clear whether the draft described by the Taliban sources was acceptable to both sides or when it could be completed and signed.
A fresh round of talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban is expected to take place on February 25 in Doha, two senior Taliban sources said.
While he has not been directly involved up until now, Ghani’s role is likely to grow as a full deal gets closer and diplomacy intensifies.
Without going into detail on Saturday night, Khalilzad said in tweets that nothing could be agreed without an intra-Afghan dialogue and a full ceasefire.