The Taliban group’s top political leaders arrive for talks. File Photo
As US and Taliban negotiators push to wrap up talks aimed at securing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, Taliban sources say a pact will not mean an end to fighting with the US-backed Afghan government.
US and Taliban officials have been negotiating in Qatar since last year on an agreement centred on the withdrawal of US forces, and an end to their longest-ever war, in exchange for a Taliban guarantee that international militant groups will not plot from Afghan soil.
US negotiators have been pressing the Taliban to agree to so-called intra-Afghan talks, meaning with the Kabul government and a ceasefire, but a senior Taliban official said that would not happen.
“We will continue our fight against the Afghan government and seize power by force,” said the Taliban commander on condition of anonymity.
US President Donald Trump is impatient to get US forces out of Afghanistan and end the 18-year war that was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
But there are fears among Afghan officials and US national security aides that a US troop withdrawal could see Afghanistan plunged into a new round of civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including Daesh, finding a refuge.
Another Taliban commander, who also declined to be identified, said a deal was expected to be signed this week under which US forces will stop attacking the Taliban and the militants would end their fight against the US troops.
Under the pact, the United States would also cease supporting the Afghan government, the Taliban officials said.
"The Americans will not come to the assistance of the Afghan government and its forces in their fight against us," the first Taliban official said.
US officials involved in the negotiations were not available for comment.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they targeted three vehicles of "foreigners" as they tried to enter the heavily guarded Shashdarak area where the Afghan national security authorities have offices.
Witnesses and an AFP reporter also described hearing gunshots immediately after the blast at the electronic identification registration centre in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, where both the Taliban and the Daesh group are active.
Abdul Sattar was leaving his cousin’s wedding when he noticed a well-dressed man pull up on a bicycle festooned with flowers and rush inside the hall. After decades of carnage in Afghanistan, little things can set off alarm bells. Abdul Sattar, a sergeant in the Afghan army, recalled thinking: “He could be a suicide bomber.”
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