KABUL, Nov. 29 (Reuters / EP) –
The Taliban have announced Friday that they are ready to start peace talks with the United States, a day after the surprise visit of US President Donald Trump to the military bases that Washington has in the country.
“The Taliban want to reach an agreement and we are meeting with them,” Trump told reporters after arriving in Afghanistan on Thursday. The visit came during Thanksgiving and was the first that the president of the United States has made to the troops since he was elected.
For its part, the terrorist group has informed Reuters that they have been holding talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar, with senior US officials over the past weekend. This news comes a week after the exchange of prisoners between Washington and Kabul, thus raising hopes for a long and difficult peace agreement to end a war that is continuing for 18 years.
One of the Taliban spokesmen, Zabihullah Mujahid, has said the insurgent group was “ready to restart the peace talks from the point where they had stopped,” referring to Trump's cancellation in September when the terrorist group claimed the responsibility of an attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including that of a US soldier.
There are currently about 13,000 US Army forces, as well as other NATO-registered countries in Afghanistan, 18 years after the Washington-led military invasion in response to the al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York. Since then, some 2,400 military and US government officials have lost their lives during the war in that country.
THE SURPRISE VISIT OF TRUMP
Donald Trump landed on Thursday by surprise at Bagram Air Base, where he met with his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, to announce the Taliban's willingness to start peace talks.
“The Taliban want to reach an agreement, we'll see if they reach it. If they do, they do it, and if not, no. It's fine,” he said, according to his statements, published by the White House.
“As you know, for some time now we want to reach an agreement. The Taliban also wanted to, but we backed down. We were close, but we retired because of what they did,” he said.
Trump stressed that US troops “are going to stay” in Afghanistan “until there is an agreement or a total victory is achieved,” he added.
“The Taliban want to reach an agreement and we are meeting with them and telling them that there has to be a ceasefire. They did not want a ceasefire and now they want it. I think it may work that way,” he explained.
Air Force One took off from the Andrews Joint Base at 22.08 (local time) on Wednesday and arrived about 24 hours later at the Afghan air base, where it landed with the lights off for security reasons. The plane left Bagram shortly after midnight to start the return route.
The Taliban have been talking with US diplomats for months to agree to the withdrawal of more than 20,000 troops from the international forces of Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees that the country will not be used as a base for terrorist attacks.
After the suspension of the talks, the Taliban have reinforced their campaign of attacks and offensives throughout the Afghan territory and have reiterated that they will not sign a halt if there is no timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from the Central Asian country.
In addition, so far they have refused to negotiate directly with the Government of Ghani, which they consider a “puppet” of the West. Kabul has demanded a process of direct talks for the signing of an eventual peace agreement.
However, the Afghan Presidency said in early November that China has agreed to host a meeting “in the near future” between the Government and a Taliban delegation to address a possible peace agreement.
The Taliban already confirmed on October 23 that Beijing was working to organize a round of talks and even noted that the insurgent group had received an invitation to attend the meeting.