Negotiators launch final efforts to sign a deal in Doha
At least 1,500 civilians killed and injured in July: UN
Washington is hoping for a breakthrough as talks between the US and the Taliban resumed in Doha yesterday in a bid to end 18 years of war in Afghanistan.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops and draw down its longest ever war.
But it would first seek assurances from the insurgents that they would renounce al-Qaeda and stop other militants like the Islamic State group using the country as a haven.
Washington is hoping to strike a peace deal with the Taliban by September 1 -- ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
US President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday that “we’ve made a lot of progress. We’re talking”.
“We are pursuing a peace agreement not a withdrawal agreement, a peace agreement that enables withdrawal,” US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted on Friday as he arrived in Doha after talks with Pakistani PM Imran Khan in Islamabad.
“Our presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based, and any withdrawal will be conditions-based.”
In another sign of progress, the Afghan government has formed a negotiating team for separate peace talks with the Taliban that diplomats hope could be held as early as later this month.
But, the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Ghani’s administration also remain unresolved.
The United Nations has said that civilian casualty rates across Afghanistan jumped back to record levels last month, following a dip earlier in the year. More than 1,500 civilians were killed or wounded in the conflict in July, the highest monthly toll so far in 2019 and the deadliest single month since May 2017.