ISLAMABAD (AP) – The Taliban has presented a document to the US ambassador outlining its offer of a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan that will last between seven and ten days, Taliban officials who are familiar with the negotiations said ,
The offer is seen as an opportunity to open a window to a possible peace agreement for Afghanistan that would allow the United States to bring its troops home and end the 18-year war, America’s longest conflict.
The armistice offer was handed over to Washington’s ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Qatar, a Gulf-Arab country where the Taliban maintain political office, for talks with the insurgents.
Khalilzad pushed for a ceasefire, but it was not immediately clear whether the Taliban proposal would be enough to resume Taliban-US talks to eventually sign a peace agreement.
Khalilzad said earlier that an agreement between the US and the Taliban would also include the start of negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict to develop a so-called roadmap for post-war Afghanistan. This roadmap would address sensitive issues such as a permanent ceasefire, the rights of women and minorities, and the fate of thousands of Taliban fighters and militias loyal to Kabul warlords.
However, the Taliban has refused to speak to the Kabul government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the general director Abdullah Abdullah. The two are currently arguing over who won the presidential election last year. The first vote count gave Ghani the win, but Abdullah, who finished second, contested the count. A final result has yet to be announced by the Afghan election commission.
Last September, the Taliban and the US appeared to be on the verge of signing a deal when an upswing in the Taliban attacks, including the murder of another U.S. soldier, prompted President Donald Trump to end the negotiations. On Thanksgiving Day during his first visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Trump tempered his stance and said the Taliban were ready to make a deal, although both Kabul and Washington insisted that the Taliban should show a sign of good faith, by reducing their attacks.
In December, the Pakistan-based Taliban leadership agreed on a temporary ceasefire offer.
A Taliban official said suspicion had long shaped the US Taliban talks and insurgents had hesitated to offer a more permanent ceasefire without US troops having withdrawn beforehand. Should the ceasefire fall, bringing the Taliban fighters back into play with the same intensity could be a problem, the official said.
“The ranks of the Taliban were that it would be difficult for them to reorganize the fighters after an interruption of the fighting,” said the official, speaking on the talks on condition of anonymity.
Taliban fighters also didn’t want to put down their arms “because they thought it was their struggles that were forcing the US to come to the table,” he said.
The Taliban currently control around half of Afghanistan and continue to carry out attacks on Afghan and US forces, Afghan government officials or those who are considered loyal to the Kabul government almost daily, but many civilians also die in the crossfire of insurgent attacks, such as in operations against the Taliban, which was carried out by Afghan and US forces.