US and Taliban agree in principle to framework for peace deal, US envoy says

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Officials from the United States and the Taliban have agreed in principle to a peace framework that could eventually bring Afghanistan’s long-running war to an end, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan said Monday.

In comments given to the New York Times and confirmed to CNN by the US Embassy in Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad said the framework for peace would see the insurgent group vow to prevent the country from being used as a hub for terrorism in return for a US military withdrawal.

“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” Khalilzad told the Times on Monday. “The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.”

The peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar had previously been described on Saturday by Khalilzad as “more productive than they have been in the past,” signaling the first significant shift in the geopolitical stalemate in years. But he added that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

An Afghan source close to the negotiations told CNN on Monday that while a ceasefire and US withdrawal were both discussed, neither side came to final conclusions.

The source said the Taliban will not agree to a ceasefire without the US committing to a full troop withdrawal, but the Americans want any withdrawal to be conditional on the ceasefire holding. The Taliban are skeptical that the US will actually pull out if the ceasefire holds.

The source added that the US wouldn’t announce any plans for a troop withdrawal without the Taliban entering into discussions with the Afghan government. Khalilzad will stay in a Kabul for more talks with the Afghan government Monday, and there are discussions that Khalilzad may go back to Afghanistan in early February.

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