Sources familiar with the negotiations between the Taliban and the United States in Doha expected an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan before August 13, in exchange for security guarantees provided by the Taliban.
Senior officials familiar with the talks said a peace deal could be expected at the end of the current round, possibly before August 13, noting that the expected agreement would lead to the withdrawal of foreign troops from the war-ravaged country.
"We are seeking a peace agreement and not an agreement to withdraw," said US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who arrived in Doha on Friday. "The Taliban have indicated that they may conclude an agreement and we are ready for a good agreement."
"The eighth round of peace talks between US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and representatives of the Taliban movement continues for the second day, and is expected to last for several days," Al-Jazeera correspondent was quoted as saying.
Shahin pointed out that if the two parties reached an agreement, the US forces will begin to withdraw from Afghanistan on time, which will open the way for negotiations with all the Afghan parties.
On the other hand, a source from the Taliban that there are preparations for the organization of a direct meeting between the US envoy and Mullah Pradar, head of the political bureau of the Taliban.
The eighth round of negotiations, which was described as crucial, resumed on Saturday, amid expectations of more progress, while US President Donald Trump on Friday spoke of "progress in peace talks with the Taliban" and his intention to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan.
Trump said US troops deployed nearly two decades ago "can win in Afghanistan in two, three or four days, but I do not look forward to killing 10 million people."
|Trump said progress had been made in peace talks with the Taliban and confirmed his intention to reduce his country's troops in Afghanistan (Reuters)|
Cease fire and safeguards
The United States hopes to reach a peace agreement with the Taliban on September 1, ahead of the upcoming Afghan elections in the same month and the US presidential election in 2020.
Washington asks the Taliban to abide by a ceasefire, renounce al-Qaeda and hold talks with the Kabul government. An Afghan official suggested last week that the government of President Ashraf Ghani was preparing for direct talks with the Taliban, but details were not yet announced.
"The issue of troop withdrawal has prolonged peace talks and delayed the agreement," a senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan told Reuters, adding that the group would "in no way allow a permanent presence of US troops in Afghanistan after signing a peace agreement."
He also said the movement would provide full assurance that no armed foreign group would be allowed to use Afghanistan to launch attacks on the United States and its allies.
The movement's leaders have repeatedly stressed that they will not stop firing or hold talks with the Afghan government and members of civil society until the United States announces a plan for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan currently has about 20,000 foreign troops - most of them Americans - as part of a NATO-led mission to train and assist Afghan forces and provide advice.
The Taliban now control more areas than ever since the United States overthrew the government in 2001.