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Trump ‘Serious’ About Afghan Withdrawal, Taliban says

by AFP
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File Photo. Noorullah Shirzada—AFP

Militant group hopes to establish ‘Islamic system’ through negotiations with ‘different’ political sides in Afghanistan

U.S. President Donald Trump is serious about getting out of Afghanistan, the Taliban told AFP on Friday, outlining the “Islamic system” comprising “all Afghans” that the group says it hopes to establish under any peace deal.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid spoke to AFP via WhatsApp a day after the U.S. said talks with the militants are “on the right path,” fueling speculation of a breakthrough in the 17-year conflict.

The U.S. president’s apparent eagerness to pull troops out has weighed on the negotiations, which culminated with six straight days of meetings in Qatar last week. “An agreement was reached on a principle framework… which, if implemented, and if the Americans take honest steps and stick to it truthfully, then God willing we are hopeful that the Americans will end the occupation of Afghanistan,” Mujahid said. “It appears that Trump is serious,” the Taliban spokesman continued.

U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad also spoke this week of a “draft framework” for a deal, though he warned that major hurdles—including any U.S. withdrawal—remain. Experts have hailed the development as a milestone in the grinding 17-year conflict. But it has prompted concerns from Afghans and observers who feared foreign troops could withdraw before a lasting peace is reached between the insurgents and the government in Kabul.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996, imposing their brutal interpretation of Shariah law on the country until they were toppled in the U.S. invasion of 2001. They have since fought an insurgency demanding foreign troops leave and an Islamic state be re-established.

Mujahid said a foreign withdrawal was the first goal. “Secondly, we want the establishment of an Islamic system,” he continued, a goal they will seek through “negotiations with different political sides, even if they have so far been under the umbrella of the invaders.”

If the democratic government in Kabul will not stand in the way, he added, “then of course there will be no need for war and conflict.”

Mujahid said the insurgents are not seeking to monopolize power. “Inshallah all Afghans, including different political sides” can take part, he told AFP. Such a system would be based on the principle of shura, or council, with Islamic experts making decisions and “representatives of people and scholars” contributing.

Mujahid said the group was “100 percent hopeful” of establishing such a system. He said the next round of talks with the U.S. would again take place in Doha starting Feb. 25. The U.S. has said talks will continue, but not confirmed any date.

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