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US-Taliban peace talks stuck over definition of violence

Sunday - January 26, 2020 6:51 pm , Category : WORLD
New Delhi/Kabul, Jan 26 (IANS) The negotiations for an Afghanistan peace deal between the US and the Taliban are ensnarled over their disagreement on the definition of "reduction in violence".

A few weeks ago, the US and Taliban representatives resumed the stalled negotiations, which President Donald Trump had called off in September last year. The two sides have been holding closed-door parleys in Qatar to finalize the peace deal and gradual withdrawal of the US and NATO forces which launched a war against terror in Afghanistan 18 years ago.
Top officials told IANS that Washington has been feeling frustrated that even as the Taliban had offered to reduce attacks for up to ten days during the drawdown of the US forces from Afghanistan, violence remained high.
As per the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data, 54 civilians, 32 security forces and 232 militants have been killed since the beginning of this year alone. Last year, 817 civilians, 728 security forces and 10634 militants were killed in the country.
"The deal is continually running into the bottleneck of defining "reduction in violence". Both the sides have a different measure for it," an official source said. "Due to the high level of violence while the negotiations are on, there is tremendous distrust in each other," he added.
While the US has been demanding a considerable drop in militant violence against the forces before signing a deal, the Taliban have been arguing that a longer and wider ceasefire with the security forces can only be part of the intra-Afghan negotiations over power-sharing at a later stage.
"The Taliban, which has refused to hold direct talks with the Afghanistan government, don't want to give up their leverage, which essentially comes from violence," said a Pashtun source near the Durand Line, that separates Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Taliban's offer of limited reduction in violence, given to the US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, didn't draw any support from the Afghanistan government either. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has rejected their offer arguing that his government would participate in negotiations with Taliban over power-sharing only once a substantial ceasefire was in place.
Interestingly, the Taliban on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of a nationwide ceasefire until the US signed the deal on the troop withdrawal.
The US has around 11,000 troops in Afghanistan and has been gradually withdrawing forces even though the two sides have not signed a deal yet. The Trump administration intends to draw down another 4,000 troops before they sign a peace pact with the Taliban.
Accusing the US of "wasting time", the Taliban on Thursday, said the talks with Zalmay Khalilzad were stuck over a definition of "reduction of violence."

--IANS aart/prs