KABUL (Dispatches) – The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the U.S. by the end of January and are prepared to "scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.
The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the U.S. held discussions in Doha this week, after militant sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief ceasefire.
"We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.
He added that the Taliban were "optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.
"It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.
The stop-start talks between Taliban militants and the United States to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan were called off in September by U.S. President Donald Trump after an American soldier was killed in an attack by the Taliban.
Talks that had resumed after Trump visited U.S. troops in Afghanistan in November were put on "pause” again the following month after the Taliban launched an attack on a U.S. base outside Kabul killing two civilians.
The U.S. invaded the Central Asian country after the September 11, 2001 attacks under the banner of seeking to fight "terror” thousands of kilometers away from its own borders.
The invasion deposed the Taliban, but the group has never ceased its operations across Afghanistan, and has vowed to keep up its attacks until the withdrawal of all U.S.-led forces.