January 16, 2020
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan announced Thursday the Taliban is ready to reduce violence in Afghanistan, calling it a major breakthrough toward reaching a long-awaited peace deal the insurgent group has been negotiating with the United States.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi revealed in a video message that Islamabad has been helping in the peace process to bring stability to Pakistan, Afghanistan and the region.
“Today a major development has taken place in this effort. The Taliban has accepted the demand for a reduction in violence. I believe it is a major step toward the (U.S.-Taliban) peace agreement,” Qureshi said. He did not share further details.
“The good thing for Pakistan is that the responsibility it took for promoting the (Afghan) reconciliation has effectively been discharged,” the foreign minister noted. Pakistan hoped the effort would lead to peace so it would benefit the people in both neighboring countries, Qureshi added.
The foreign minister, who is currently visiting Washington, made the revelation ahead of his meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Robert O’ Brien.
The announcement comes amid media reports Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhund has approved a week-long cease-fire with U.S.-led foreign forces to end the deadlock in signing a foreign troop withdrawal agreement U.S. and Taliban interlocutors have negotiated in their yearlong talks, held mostly in Qatar.
Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid when asked for a confirmation on whether his leadership has agreed to a cease-fire, told VOA: “I am in the process of collecting the information and will share the details as soon as I get them.”
U.S. chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad has been demanding the Taliban agree to a brief cessation in hostilities before the two adversaries in the 18-year-old Afghan war could sign the deal.
Insurgent negotiators in Doha, reports said, were expected to share their cease-fire decision with Khalilzad on Wednesday. The U.S. envoy is said to be staying in the Qatari capital to hear from the insurgents whether they were ready to accept his demand, though U.S. officials have not commented on his presence in the Gulf nation.
Khalilzad paused the dialogue process last month after insurgents staged a major attack on the largest U.S. military base of Bagram in Afghanistan that killed several Afghan civilians and injured scores of others.
The proposed agreement, if signed, would require the Taliban to immediately enter into negotiations with Afghan stakeholders to discuss a nationwide cease-fire and a power-sharing understanding to bring an end to decades of deadly hostilities in the country.