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Peace talks with US started secretly under Obama: Taliban spokesperson

The talks were "hidden behind closed doors" in Doha, where both parties signed the historic peace agreement on February 29

IANS  |  Doha 

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader shack hands after signing a peace agreement between Taliban and U.S. officials in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Feb 29, 2020. Photo: AP/PTI
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader shack hands after signing a peace agreement between Taliban and U.S. officials in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Feb 29, 2020. Photo: AP/PTI

The US-negotiations that culminated with a peace deal signed in Doha began with former US President Barak Obama's administration, but remained a secret, the spokesperson for Talibans political office in Doha said.

The hopes to reach an agreement with the Afghan government before the total withdrawal of the troops within 14 months, the spokesman, Suhail Shaheen told Efe news in an interview on Sunday.

"It took a long time to reach a deal with the US because they started a few years back but it was away from the eye of the media so it was only in the time of the Trump administration that we openly talked with them and all the details were told to the media," he said.

Although he did not reveal when the talks exactly began, but he pointed out that it got underway "during the Obama administration".

The talks were "hidden behind closed doors" in Doha, where both parties signed the historic peace agreement on February 29.

The deal lays out a roadmap for the full withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan starting with the removal of 8,600 soldiers, in a period of 135 days after the signing of the peace agreement.

Currently, some 14,000 US troops are deployed in the country.

During the process, the group remained united with leaders in the field following orders thanks, in part, to the political office Shaheen has been working at for eight years.

The seven-day reduction in violence implemented by the before the signing ceremony was a good example of that, he told Efe news.

After reaching a future intra-Afghan peace deal that ends the war, Shaheen hopes that "all" Taliban members, including its leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, will be able to return to Kabul.

Hibatullah succeeded former leader Mullah Mansour who was killed in a 2016 drone attack in Pakistan.

The intra-Afghan talks are scheduled to begin on March 10 in Oslo, where the Taliban will be represented by the same delegation, he said.

"The sooner we resolve the Afghan domestic issue, the better because we have to call a government before the completion of the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan," Shaheen added.

During these talks, both parties would address the formation of an "Islamic" government, its form and participation, without revealing whether his group will take part in elections.

Sectors of Afghan society and activists fear the return of the group that ruled the country with an iron fist between 1996 and 2001.

The Taliban has also been criticized over its stance towards women, who were locked up in their homes under the Islamic regime.

"There was propaganda against us by our hostile groups, our enemies," he said.

"Regarding women's rights, if they want to have education we have no problem with that, if they want to work, we have no problem with that," he added.

He did not reveal whether they planned to implement the Islamic Sharia law, saying that following intra-Afghan talks, a scholar committee will be formed to present suggestions.

For now, the signing of a deal with the US has been a historic step after nearly two decades of war.

Although pundits and analysts think there is a long road to cover, Shaheen deemed it a "very joyful moment for all our members and all the Afghan people".

"We hope to reach during intra-Afghan negotiations, another success and that is to form a government that will be another joy for us and then we say farewell to war," he concluded.

 

First Published: Mon, March 02 2020. 11:00 IST
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