KABUL (Dispatches) – Taliban say the agreement to be signed with the U.S. later this month includes the American troops’ pullout from Afghanistan.
"Based on the agreement with the U.S., all foreign troops will leave Afghanistan and occupation will end. Also, no one will be allowed to use Afghanistan’s soil against others,” Spokesman of the Taliban’s office in the Qatari capital Doha, Suhail Shaheen, wrote on his Twitter page on Saturday.
He added that the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban was completed after days of talks and it will be signed in Doha on February 29.
Shaheen noted that a number of delegations from different countries and the international bodies will participate in the ceremony as observers.
The Taliban said last Monday that a deal with the United States would be signed by the end of the month, with the top U.S. negotiator describing himself as "cautiously optimistic” about the process.
Abdul Salam Hanafi, a senior Taliban leader and member of the political commission in Doha, Qatar, said in a video message shared with journalists that after negotiations, "both sides have initiated the final draft of the peace agreement. Now talks are concluded”.
Taliban militants and Afghan security forces clashed in parts of Afghanistan on Saturday, a day after a week-long truce was announced, but the incidents did not spark immediate alarm on either side.
If the truce is observed successfully, the United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 that could lead to a pullout of thousands of U.S. troops after nearly two decades in the country.
Taliban militants attacked Afghan forces in Balkh province in the early hours of Saturday, according to the spokesman for the provincial police and head of the provincial council.
The attack was confirmed by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an audio message to Reuters. He said an Afghan forces convoy tried to enter territory controlled by the group.
The two sides have fought for control over parts of Balkh province for years.
The Taliban spokesman also confirmed similar clashes in other parts of the country, adding that the truce understanding covered specific actions and areas and all incidents of firing should not be considered a violation of the understanding, which, he stressed, was "not a ceasefire”.
There were no immediate details on the casualties in the clashes.
Over 10,000 Civilian
Casualties in 2019
Meanwhile, the United Nations announced Saturday that more than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war last year.
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 3,404 civilians were killed and 6,989 were injured in 2019.
While the number was down five percent from 2018, it was nonetheless the sixth year straight that the war caused more than 10,000 casualties, UNAMA said.
"Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence,” UNAMA head Tadamichi Yamamoto said, AFP reported.
"It is absolutely imperative for all parties to seize the moment to stop the fighting, as peace is long overdue; civilian lives must be protected and efforts for peace are under way.”
The five-percent drop in casualties was attributed to the decrease in activity by the local Daeshaffiliate in eastern Afghanistan, which was largely wiped out last year.