Taliban propose brief Afghan ceasefire, say sources

Move may eventually pave way to a peace deal that would allow the U.S. to withdraw 13,000 troops

January 16, 2020 03:45 am | Updated 11:02 pm IST - Kabul

The move could allow the resumption of talks seeking a deal for Washington to withdraw troops from Afghanistan./ File photo

The move could allow the resumption of talks seeking a deal for Washington to withdraw troops from Afghanistan./ File photo

The Taliban have offered a brief ceasefire to the U.S., two insurgent sources said on Thursday, a move which could allow for the resumption of talks seeking a deal for Washington to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see U.S. troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.

“It is an offer for a ceasefire either for seven or 10 days,” a senior Taliban official who requested anonymity told AFP, adding that the offer was made to U.S. negotiators in Doha. “It has been finalised and given to the Americans. It is going to pave the way for an agreement.”

A second insurgent source, based in Pakistan, confirmed that the offer had been handed to the U.S.

The Taliban have yet to release an official statement, and Washington has not said whether it has received any offer from the insurgents or what its response will be.

The Taliban and the U.S. had been negotiating the deal for a year, and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead”, citing Taliban violence.

Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the U.S.

On Saturday, two Americans were killed in a Taliban-claimed bomb blast targeting a U.S. forces vehicle in southern Kandahar.

‘Positive signal’

The insurgents' offer, if accepted by the Americans, could see the negotiations begin again.

Graeme Smith, a senior consultant with International Crisis Group, called the reports of a temporary ceasefire a “positive signal”, saying a recent reduction of attacks in urban centres has added weight to the process.

“The Taliban have been sending an even bigger message with their actions in recent months. Two months have passed with no major Taliban attacks in any urban zone. That pause in attacks on cities is unprecedented over the last dozen years,” said Mr. Smith.

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