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Afghan president briefed on draft U.S. Taliban peace accord

SMA News – Agencies
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been briefed on a draft accord between the United States and the Taliban and will look at details of the deal before giving an opinion, his spokesman said on Monday, after meetings with the chief U.S. peace negotiator.
The draft accord, reached after months of negotiations, agrees a ceasefire and a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from their longest ever war in exchange for a Taliban commitment that they will not allow Afghanistan to be used by militants to plot attacks on the United States and its allies.
It includes provision for so-called “intra-Afghan” talks to reach a broader political settlement and end the fighting between the Taliban and the Western-backed government in Kabul.
However details of any future negotiations remain unclear, with the Taliban so far refusing to deal directly with the government, which it considers an illegitimate “puppet” regime.
Ghani met Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-American diplomat leading the talks with the Taliban and will “study and assess” details of the draft, spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters.
“But for us, a meaningful peace or a path to a meaningful peace is the end of violence and direct negotiation with the Taliban,” he said.
Many Afghan government officials have resented the exclusion of the government from the U.S.-Taliban talks. There was some uncertainty about whether Ghani had been given a copy of the agreement, or simply shown it.
Khalilzad, who has completed nine rounds of talks with Taliban representatives, is scheduled to hold meetings with a number of Afghan leaders in Kabul this week to build a consensus before the deal is signed.
A Western diplomat privy to the talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban said Ghani will share his views in the next 48 hours.
The peace talks have taken place against a backdrop of relentless violence, with the Taliban mounting two large-scale attacks on the major northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri over the weekend.
Afghan security forces pushed back Taliban fighters from both cities but a suicide bomber detonated his explosives on Monday in Kunduz, killing at least six policemen and wounding 15, officials and the Taliban said.
In separate incidents, the Taliban killed six Afghan soldiers in central Ghazni province and five members of a family were killed on Sunday when a rocket fired by Taliban fighters hit a house in eastern Laghman province, officials said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has made little secret of his desire to bring the roughly 14,000 troops home from Afghanistan, where American troops have been deployed since a U.S.-led campaign overthrew the Taliban in 2001.
But there are concerns among Afghan officials and U.S. national security aides about a U.S. withdrawal, with fears Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and allow international militants, including Islamic State, to find a refuge.

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