Taliban elders traveled to Pakistan this weekend to engage in peace talks, and they have reportedly agreed to a temporary ceasefire contingent upon an upcoming peace deal between U.S. and the Taliban to remove troops from Afghanistan.
The meeting was led by Mawlawi Shahabuddin Delawar, a senior Taliban leader operating out of Qatar. This was a precondition demanded by U.S. negotiators, who were not willing to sign the proposed peace agreement until the Taliban agreed to the ceasefire.
“They went (to Pakistan) to consult with their elders about short-time ceasefire and it seems that the consultation was positive and overall it’s possible to announce a ceasefire,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.
Taliban military commanders say they will fall in line with the decisions of the elders, which is good news for the tenuous peace process.
“They (Taliban leaders) are our elders and are moving forward with consultations (among themselves) and we believe in them,” said Abubaker Marhaba, a Haqqani Network commander in Paktia.
The Afghani government is expected to join in the peace talks in the near future, and there seems to be a consensus of varying interests wanting peace and stability in the region.
“The peace will come with direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and Taliban. The Taliban should not ignore the current peace opportunity and it should respect the demands of the people for a ceasefire and a beginning of negotiations,” said Najia Anwari, a spokesperson for the Afghan State Ministry for Peace Affairs.
U.S. peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad is also believed to be in Qatar ready to sign the agreement. Khalilzad visited Kabul to meet with Afghani politicians and leaders last week when current peace talks in Doha were temporarily halted, and he is reportedly working hard to finalize the peace agreement as soon as possible.
“We’re approaching an important stage in the Afghan peace process. Wrapped up two days of consultations in Kabul. Productive trip,” Khalilzad wrote in a Tweet during his visit to Kabul.
Khalilzad has also visited with US ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass, commander of US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan Austin Scott Miller, Afghani President Ashraf Ghani, Afghani Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former Afghani President Hamid Karzai, women’s rights activists, and other leaders in the region. He is hoping to facilitate intra-Afghan relations that can keep the peace following a U.S. troop withdrawal.
President Donald Trump has frequently claimed that he wants to bring troops home from Afghanistan, but has yet to deliver on a deal to do so.
“We don’t have to fight these endless wars. We’re bringing it back home. That’s what I won on. And some people, whether you call it the military industrial complex, or beyond that, they’d like me to stay. One of the problems I have and one of, for instance with the witch hunt, you have people that want me to stay. They want me to fight forever. They do very well fighting. That’s what they want to do. Fight. A lot of companies want to fight because they make their weapons based on fighting, not based on peace and they take care of a lot of people,” Trump said at a press conference in October.
“We’re 7,000 miles away. I campaigned on bringing our soldiers back home and that’s what I’m doing. That includes other places, too, many other places. Statutorily it takes a period of time. Diplomatically, it takes a period of time. But you know, we’re in many countries, many, many countries. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many, I know the exact number, but I’m embarrassed to say it because it’s so foolish,” Trump added.
The Trump administration is on the cusp of living up to his promise in Afghanistan, with negotiations rapidly progressing following September’s setback.