The Taliban Monday denied agreeing to any ceasefire in Afghanistan after rumours swirled of a potential deal that would see a reduction in fighting after more than 18 years of war.
“In the past few days, some media have been releasing untrue reports about a ceasefire… The fact is that, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has no ceasefire plans,” the Taliban said in a statement.
— Chaudhary M. Sulman 🇵🇰 🇵🇰 (@sallu4real) December 30, 2019
The statement from the insurgents comes as local and international forces brace for another bloody winter amid US-Taliban talks to end the violence in Afghanistan.
Deadly bouts of fighting have continued even as Washington negotiates with the militants in a bid to reduce America’s military footprint in the country, in return for the insurgents ensuring an improved security situation.
Afghanistan is also struggling with an ongoing political dispute after officials announced preliminary results in the latest presidential elections that put President Ashraf Ghani on track to secure a second term.
Elections authorities have yet to declare the results as final after receiving more than 16,000 complaints about the polls, with the ultimate tally expected in the coming weeks.
The Taliban have long viewed Ghani as an American stooge and have refused to negotiate with his government, leading many to fear that fighting against Afghan forces will continue even if the US secures an eventual deal with the militants to withdraw.
Push and pull of negotiations
According to reports, the Taliban’s ruling council agreed Sunday to a temporary cease-fire in Afghanistan, providing a window in which a peace agreement with the United States can be signed, officials from the insurgent group said. They didn’t say when it would begin.
Elections authorities have yet to declare the results as final after receiving more than 16,000 complaints about the polls, with the ultimate tally expected in the coming weeks
A cease-fire had been demanded by Washington before any peace agreement could be signed. A peace deal would allow the U.S. to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America’s longest.
The United States and the Taliban restarted peace negotiations this month, three months after President Donald Trump abruptly stopped the yearlong process aimed at finding a political settlement with the insurgent group and ending the war in Afghanistan.
The Afghan-born U.S. special reconciliation representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, led his team at Saturday’s meeting in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where insurgent negotiators are based, a U.S. source told VOA.
The Taliban’s leadership gave the go-ahead for a temporary truce, possibly clearing the way for a U.S. troop drawdown and talks with the Afghan government https://t.co/rzOG39sB88
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) December 28, 2019
The disruption in the talks had come at a crucial stage when both sides were believed to have come close to concluding an agreement that could have set the stage for a phased withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from Afghanistan.
In return, the deal would have outlined the Taliban’s counterterrorism guarantees in insurgent-controlled Afghan areas and given assurances the rebels would immediately engage in intra-Afghan negotiations for permanently ending decades of hostilities in the country.
GVS News Desk with additions from news agencies.