Asia-Pacific

Taliban maintains its deal with the US won't stop attacks

A Taliban commander is promising to continue the fight against the Afghan government. Source: iStockphoto

Taliban sources say a deal that would see US forces pull out of Afghanistan will not mean an end to fighting with the US-backed Afghan government.

As US and Taliban negotiators push to wrap up talks aimed at securing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, Taliban sources say a pact will not mean an end to fighting with the US-backed Afghan government.

US and Taliban officials have been negotiating in Qatar since last year on an agreement centred on the withdrawal of US forces, and an end to their longest-ever war, in exchange for a Taliban guarantee that international militant groups will not plot from Afghan soil.

US negotiators have been pressing the Taliban to agree to so-called intra-Afghan talks, meaning with the Kabul government and a ceasefire, but a senior Taliban official said that would not happen.

"We will continue our fight against the Afghan government and seize power by force," said the Taliban commander on condition of anonymity.

US President Donald Trump is impatient to get US forces out of Afghanistan and end the 18-year war that was launched after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

US President Donald Trump is eager to see America's military presence withdrawn from Afghanistan.
US President Donald Trump is eager to see America's military presence withdrawn from Afghanistan.
Getty Images North America

But there are fears among Afghan officials and US national security aides that a US troop withdrawal could see Afghanistan plunged into a new round of civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including Islamic State, finding a refuge.

Another Taliban commander, who also declined to be identified, said a deal was expected to be signed this week under which US forces will stop attacking the Taliban and the militants would end their fight against the US troops.

Under the pact, the United States would also cease supporting the Afghan government, the Taliban officials said.

"The Americans will not come to the assistance of the Afghan government and its forces in their fight against us," the first Taliban official said.

US officials involved in the negotiations were not available for comment.

U.S. soldiers board an Army Chinook transport helicopter in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
U.S. soldiers board an Army Chinook transport helicopter in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.
Getty Images

The US special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been pressing the Taliban to make a commitment to power-sharing talks with the government and to announce a ceasefire.

The Taliban, fighting to expel foreign forces and re-establish a theocratic Islamic state since their ouster in October 2001, have refused to talk to the government, denouncing it as a US puppet although they have raised the possibility of negotiations after the deal on the US withdrawal is struck.

The militants now control more territory than they have since 2001 and the war has ground into a stalemate with casualties rising among civilians as well as combatants.

Some 14,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counterinsurgency operations. Some 6000 troops from NATO allies and partner countries also help train Afghan forces.

Two diplomatic sources with knowledge of the ninth round of talks in Qatar said they expected an agreement to be finalised this week, enabling the US to pull out about 50 per cent of its forces.

"A ceasefire between the Afghan forces and the Taliban requires a separate agreement and deliberations are yet to begin," said one diplomat who has been monitoring the negotiations in Qatar.

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