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05May19


US-Taliban talks stalled over troop withdrawal


Negotiations between the Taliban and the US have been stalled over the key issue of when foreign forces should pull out of Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman said Sunday.

The Taliban and US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad have met repeatedly in the Qatari capital Doha in recent months in a bid to finally end Afghanistan's lengthy and devastating war.

Central to negotiations is the fundamental question of a timetable for when foreign forces might leave Afghanistan, after more than 17 years of conflict.

While Khalilzad in February sounded an optimistic tone, suggesting an agreement was within reach by July, the two adversaries have reached a sticking point.

Before Washington announces a withdrawal timeline, it is demanding that the Taliban put in place security guarantees, a ceasefire and other commitments.

However, the insurgents insist they won't do a thing until the US announces that timeline.

In an interview with AFP, Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban's political spokesman in Doha, said the two sides are grappling with "one point, and to narrow the differences and have an agreement on a timetable which is acceptable to both sides.

Shaheen added, "That has not been achieved so far."

Asked if that meant nothing would move forward until Washington announced a withdrawal timetable, Shaheen said: "In principle, yes," adding that the issue might not be resolved in this round of talks.

"If we are not able to finalize it in this round, then peace would be far away rather than being closer," Shaheen said.

It was not clear if the talks were to continue Monday, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

[Source: Asia Times Staff, Afp, Bankok, 05May19]

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