KABUL (Dispatches) – A U.S.-Taliban deal could be signed this month if the Taliban stop countering American troops militarily, which could lead to an eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, two Afghan government sources and a Western diplomat say.
The tentative timeline shared by sources on Wednesday came a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said there had been a possible breakthrough in U.S.-Taliban talks in Qatar.
The talks had been deadlocked in part over a U.S. demand that the militants agree to sharply reduce its attacks against Americans as part of any American troop withdrawal accord.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar’s capital, Doha, said progress has been made, but refused to share further details.
Doha has been the venue for talks between the warring sides since 2018 even as fighting has continued across the country, killing hundreds of civilians and soldiers as the Taliban have expanded their territorial control.
A third Afghan official said the United States has agreed in principle to a deal, but that it would not be signed until the Taliban stop its attacks as a show of the group’s opposition to foreign military presence.
The deal could be signed as soon as this month, the official said, requesting anonymity.
A Western diplomat in Kabul said U.S. negotiators were working on idea that the Taliban stop attacking foreign troops for at least 10 days.
There are about 13,000 U.S. troops as well as thousands of other NATO troops in Afghanistan, 18 years after a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country.
The United States is aiming to reduce troop numbers to about 9,000, the diplomat said.
The news of a potential agreement to strop attack against foreign targets comes as the militant group that controls about 40% of the country, according to Afghan defense officials.
Last month the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. government agency, assessed that there had been a record-high number of attacks carried out by the Taliban and other anti-government forces during the last three months of 2019.