KABUL: The United States would withdraw almost 5,000 troops from Afghanistan and close five bases within 135 days under a draft peace accord agreed with the Taliban, the chief US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday.
The deal, reached after months of negotiations with representatives from the insurgent movement, must still be approved by US President Donald Trump before it can be signed, Khalilzad said in an interview with Tolo News television. "In principle, we have got there," he said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been briefed on a draft of the accord and will look at details of the deal before giving an opinion, his spokesman said on Monday.
In exchange for the phased withdrawal, the Taliban would commit not to allow Afghanistan to be used by militants to plot attacks on the US and its allies.
It includes provision for so-called "intra-Afghan" talks to reach a broader political settlement and end the fighting between the Taliban and the Western-backed government in Kabul. However, details of any future negotiations remain unclear, with the Taliban so far refusing to deal directly with the government.
Ghani met Khalilzad and will "study and assess" details of the draft, spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said earlier on Monday. "But for us, a meaningful peace or a path to a meaningful peace is the end of violence and direct negotiation with the Taliban," he said.
Many Afghan government officials have resented the government's exclusion from the US-Taliban talks. There was some uncertainty about whether Ghani had been given a copy of the agreement, or simply shown it.
At least 10 people have been killed after a car bomb rocked a high-security zone east of the capital of Afghanistan, which houses the US Embassy and other diplomatic missions. The blast took place on Thursday in Shash Darak, a heavily fortified area adjacent to the Green Zone and home to several important complexes including the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence service.
The Trump administration is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in exchange for concessions from the Taliban, including a cease-fire and a renunciation of al-Qaeda, as part of an initial deal to end the nearly 18-year-old war, U.S. officials say.
The ongoing seventh round of negotiations between Taliban representatives and US officials in Qatar has made "spectacular progress" on a draft agreement aimed at ending the 18-year-long conflict in Afghanistan, a spokesperson for the armed group has said. Speaking to Al Jazeera on Wednesday, Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban's political spokesman in Doha, said that "80-90 percent work on the peace agreement is finished". "Spectacular progress made in this round. The meeting will continue today as well," he added, without giving further details.
In a pre-dawn airstrike on Tuesday, according to Indian account, 12 Indian Mirage 2000 fighter jets intruded into Pakistan’s airspace and dropped their payload on the top of a mountain at a terrorist training camp, allegedly belonging to a jihadist group that had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama attack in the Indian-administered Kashmir on February 14 in which more than 40 Indian soldiers had lost their lives.
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