US, Taliban scramble to rewrite draft on troop withdrawal | 2019-07-05

US, Taliban scramble to rewrite draft on troop withdrawal

5 July, 2019 12:00 AM printer

ISLAMABAD: Taliban and US negotiators are scrambling to rewrite a draft agreement that will outline the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan and a verifiable Taliban guarantee to fight terrorism ahead of an all-Afghan peace conference Sunday, reports AP.

Officials familiar with the talks, but not authorized to speak about them, say negotiations went late into the night on Wednesday and were to resume again on Thursday — the sixth day of direct talks between the insurgents and US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, told The Associated Press on Thursday that “the talks are continuing and they will continue tomorrow as well. We have made some progress.” Previously he said that a draft agreement was being rewritten to include agreed-upon clauses. On Thursday he said the two sides had broadened their discussion, without elaborating.

Until now two sides had been divided on the withdrawal timetable, with the United States seeking more time.

Taliban officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, earlier said the U.S. was seeking up to 18 months to complete a troop withdrawal even as U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News earlier this week that a withdrawal had already quietly begun and that troop strength had been cut to 9,000. The president’s statement has since been contradicted by a senior U.S. official, who said the force strength is unchanged at about 14,000.