The Afghan Taliban have said they have concluded their peace talks with United States and are set to sign the peace deal by the end of this month, reported The News.
“After many ups and downs, the peace talks with the US have finally been concluded in Doha. We agreed on certain major issues and could most likely sign the peace accord by the end of this month (February),” a senior Taliban leader privy to the peace talks told The News on Monday.
Pleading anonymity, he said both sides have decided to create a friendly environment in Afghanistan before signing of the peace accord and are expected to stop fighting for a few days.
According to Taliban leaders, they could later extend the ceasefire or turn it into a permanent ceasefire.
The peace deal signing ceremony will take place in Doha, according to the Taliban leaders, in which they have decided to invite world leaders, including rulers of the Muslim countries, Europe, Afghanistan’s neighbours, NATO, United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and those involved in the affairs of Afghanistan.
The Taliban leaders further said that after signing the deal, the first thing Washington will ensure is to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners, languishing in different jails in Afghanistan.
Taliban claim, 11,000 prisoners are presently held in jails in Afghanistan. And in return, Taliban said, they would release 1,000 prisoners, majority of them whom are members of the Afghan security establishment.
Reports of a seven-day ceasefire between US and Taliban was reported last week, however, Taliban commanders said on Monday their operations would go ahead until they receive instructions from top leadership based on a deal with the US to reduce violence in the country.
“We didn’t receive any message about a ceasefire from our leadership,” a Taliban commander in Afghanistan's Helmand province said.
On Sunday night, Taliban fighters attacked Afghan government forces manning a checkpoint in the northern province of Kunduz.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid took responsibility for the attack and claimed to have killed 19 security personnel.
A day later on Monday, a Taliban spokesman issued a statement, saying an Afghan military helicopter had been shot down in the Nimroz province, however, an official present there said the helicopter made an emergency landing and had not been attacked.
Despite a spike in the violence on the ground, a senior Taliban leader in Doha has claimed a deal with the US is set to be signed by the end of the month.
Pakistan welcomes progress in peace talks
US State Department Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad called on Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday and briefed him over the peace talks with the Taliban.
PM Imran welcomed the recent progress in peace talks between the United States and Taliban and expressed the hope that the agreement would be signed at the earliest to be followed by intra-Afghan dialogue for working out a settlement for sustained peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Ambassador Khalilzad also briefed the prime minister about the latest developments in the context of the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.
The prime minister underlined that Pakistan had facilitated the Afghan peace and reconciliation process as it genuinely believed that after Afghanistan it stood to benefit the most from peace and stability in that country.
Originally published in The News