Taliban implies discussions around ceasefire still a long way off

As calls mount for a ceasefire – or at least a reduction in violence – in Afghanistan, the Taliban has stated the talks, currently underway in Doha, have not yet reached the stage where the issue of a truce can be discussed.

In an interview with Gulf Times, Muhammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, said: “Ceasefire in Afghanistan is a major issue but we have not reached at a level [in the ongoing peace talks] where we will discuss this issue. So far we have not taken the first step towards the peace negotiations.”

He also said the two sides have not yet started formal negotiations.

“We have not started the talks formally yet. We have not reached the ‘ceasefire stage’. We have been discussing the rules of procedure.”

Naeem also stated: “We have not yet discussed any issue that can create hurdles. I am however hopeful that we will make the headway. A certain time frame cannot be given but we are hopeful to make progress.”

Despite a sharp rise in violence over the past two months and this week’s assault on Helmand province by the Taliban, Naeem said the group is “sincere for reconciliation and peace. We have shown this. We negotiated for about 18 months with the US government and reached at a conclusion. We will do whatever we can to have peace in the country. We will make progress.”

On topics to be discussed during talks, down the line, which would include women’s rights and jurisprudence, he said: “We are yet to set the agenda for the negotiations. Once the agenda is set, we will be able to say what we will discuss.”

Naeem also stated: “We have time and again said that our policy is not to interfere in the affairs of other countries. We also expect other countries not to interfere in Afghanistan.”

On the November 3 presidential election in the United States, he said the group hopes the US-Taliban deal brokered in February in Doha will remain intact irrespective of the results.

“Our deal is not with one person. We have signed the agreement with the US government. We think that the US wants to withdraw from Afghanistan. They have signed the peace deal for their own people and country. We hope that all political leaders of the US realize the importance of the peace deal and there will be no change.”