Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar attends a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. Reuters
The Taliban on 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.
Earlier, the Taliban's ruling council agreed on 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.
A cease-fire had been demanded by Washington before any peace agreement could be signed. A peace deal would allow the US to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America's longest.
The White House said it would have no comment.
The US wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups. The US currently has an estimated 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.
The Taliban chief must approve the cease-fire decision but that was expected. The duration of the cease-fire was not specified but it was suggested it would last for 10 days. It was also not specified when the cease-fire would begin.
Four members of the Taliban negotiating team met for a week with the ruling council before they agreed on the brief cease-fire. The negotiating team returned on Sunday to Qatar where the Taliban maintain their political office and where US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding peace talks with the religious militia since September, 2018.
Taliban officials familiar with the negotiations spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media outlets.
A key pillar of the agreement, which the US and Taliban have been hammering out for more than a year, is direct negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict.
Those intra-Afghan talks were expected to be held within two weeks of the signing of a US-Taliban peace deal. They will decide what a post-war Afghanistan will look like.
President Donald Trump made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to US troops in Afghanistan on Thursday and said he believed Taliban insurgents would agree to a ceasefire in America’s longest war.
Proposed by the militants and matched by President Ashraf Ghani, the truce will grant respite for Afghans as they mark the Muslim festival with friends and family.
Stakes are high for the talks which follow a week of US-Taliban negotiations with both sides eyeing a resolution to the bloody 18-year conflict.
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