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US-Taliban deal “soon” (spokesman)

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said “near” the movement has reached an agreement with the United States that could translate into a reduction in the number of US soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

The two sides have been negotiating in Doha for days to finalize a landmark deal providing for security guarantees from the Taliban in return for the withdrawal of most of the 13,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

“We are close to reaching an agreement,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a tweet. “We hope to soon blow up good news for our Muslim nation eager for freedom.”

The US embassy in Kabul had no comment.

A special US envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will visit Kabul in “a day or two” to brief the Afghan president on the agreement, said Siddiq Siddiqui, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

A senior Taliban leader in Pakistan told AFP that the leaders of the movement are holding a meeting at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss the proposed agreement.

“The Shura Council members received the draft agreement and they are discussing it carefully, but any approval was not given to the negotiating delegation in Doha,” the leader said.

Washington hopes to conclude a deal by September 1, ahead of Afghanistan’s presidential election scheduled for the same month and the US presidential election in 2020.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Taliban delegation in Doha, Suhail Shahin, said an agreement could be reached “as soon as the outstanding points have been addressed.”

At a news conference in Kabul on Wednesday, Amnesty International called for the peace agreement to respect the rights of Afghans.

“Any peace agreement must not ignore the voices of the Afghans, the voices of the victims, nor their calls for justice, and anyone who has committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights abuses should be held accountable,” said Omar Warish, deputy director of Amnesty International for South Asia.

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