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Round of US-Taliban talks ends with progress on draft peace deal

DOHA:Taliban negotiators and United States of America (USA) officials meeting in Qatar on Saturday finalised clauses to be included in a draft agreement to end the 17-year-old Afghan war, according to sources.

Details provided by the sources to an international media outlet include apparent concessions from both sides, with foreign forces to be withdrawn from the country in 18 months from the future signing of the deal.

Sources said that the insurgent group has given assurances that no international terrorist groups would be allowed to use Afghan soil to threaten America or any other country in future.

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is heading to Afghan capital Kabul to brief President Ashraf Ghani after the end of the six-day talks, the sources and a diplomat said.

It is unclear whether a joint statement will be issued, or whether the provisions have been fully accepted by the US side. US embassy officials in Kabul were not available to comment.

According to the Taliban sources, the group offered assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al-Qaeda and Daesh militants to attack the United States and its allies – a key early demand of Washington.

The Taliban says that they will finalize a timeline for a ceasefire in Afghanistan but will only open talks with Afghan representatives once the ceasefire is implemented.

Other clauses include a deal over the exchange and release of prisoners from the warring sides, the removal of an international travel ban on several Taliban leaders by the United States and the prospect of an interim Afghan government after the ceasefire is struck, the Taliban sources said.

Pakistan army spokesperson Major-General Asif Ghafoor in an interview to the Voice of America said before the Doha talks that the country desires to see a successful end of the Afghan peace process.

“This political reconciliation must succeed. … We wish that the U.S. leaves Afghanistan as a friend of the region, not as a failure,” Major General  Ghafoor said.

In another separate interview to the Arab News, the DG ISPR said: “We are a facilitator. We have done our job of bringing them to the negotiating table. What is discussed and how the process moves forward will depend on progress during every meeting.”