The US and the Taliban on Wednesday were finalising an agreement to end America’s longest and most costly war, bringing nearly two decades of conflict to an end.
Sources in Kabul told The National a deal had been reached on many of the main issues, but the announcement would not be made until final details were resolved, and US lead negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad has met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
There would be ceremonies in Oslo, picked to host possible intra-Afghan talks, and another in Kabul to mark the agreement.
“Yes, the deal is signed,” a source said on Wednesday.
The source said the main elements of the deal were for a reduction in violence in two provinces agreed to by both sides, the start of inter-Afghan negotiations on ending the war, the release of Taliban fighters and the withdrawal of US forces.
The troop pull-out would begin from a list of bases agreed to by both sides, but the source declined to identify them.
A senior Afghan security official and a source close to the Taliban told The National that Mr Khalilzad would meet Mr Ghani on Wednesday night to discuss the next steps.
The Taliban and US officials had agreed on a timeline of about 14 to 24 months for the withdrawal of US forces, a senior security official said.
The government did not want US forces to stay in Afghanistan over the long term, but added that their “conditions-based” presence was needed at this stage, Mr Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Reuters.
“We want to end the bloodshed,” Mr Sediqqi said. “We cannot accept the orders of the Taliban. They must accept our demands and we demand peace.”
The US has 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and provides air support for Afghan soldiers. Nato also has a mission in the country with 17,000 soldiers from several countries.
“We hope to have good news soon for our Muslim, independence-seeking nation,” Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said on Wednesday.
The US and Taliban began the ninth round of talks in Qatar at the weekend to end the 18-year conflict.
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