Trump’s talk of Afghanistan cease-fire appears to surprise the Taliban, Afghan government thumbnail

Trump’s talk of Afghanistan cease-fire appears to surprise the Taliban, Afghan government

President Trump’s confident assertion that the Taliban is ready and even eager for a cease-fire demanded by the United States in Afghanistan’s 18-year-old war may be more wishful thinking than reality.Declaring that the U.S.-Taliban talks he abruptly canceled in September are back in motion, Trump said during a Thanksgiving Day visit to troops in Afghanistan that the Taliban “wants to make a deal. And we’re meeting with them, and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.”“They didn’t want to do a cease-fire, but now they do want to do a cease-fire,” Trump said of the militants. “It will probably work out that way. … We’ve made tremendous progress,” he added.But on Friday neither the Taliban nor the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani indicated that a cease-fire was near, or even being discussed in resumed U.S. negotiations.At the time the U.S.-Taliban talks ended, the two sides were preparing to sign a draft agreement that called for a reduction in violence. But it specifically declared that any discussion of a cease-fire was to be left to follow-on negotiations between the militants and the government in Kabul.In a statement, the Taliban said that remains their understanding. “We are ready to talk, but we have the same stance to resume the talks from where it was suspended,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told The Washington Post.Ghani spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said that Trump’s brief visit there was “important,” but that “we will have to see” if there has been any change in the status of peace talks.“It is too early to comment on any changes or any perceived changes,” Seddiqi said.Even the administration voiced a lower expectation than Trump. “As the president said, we are restarting talks with the Taliban. The focus will be on reducing violence,” said a senior administration official, who like others discussed the closed-door talks on the condition of anonymity. “If an agreement can be reached, the two sides could potentially expand the talks and pave the way for signing a peace agreement.”After nearly a year of U.S.-Taliban negotiations, held in the Qatari capital of Doha and led on the U.S. side by special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, they reached a four-part agreement that included a partial withdrawal of U.S. troops, a Taliban pledge to sever relations with al-Qaeda and to ensure that none of the territory it controls — now more than 50 percent of Afghanistan — would be used for terrorism activities directed at the United States or its allies.The Taliban also committed to beginning direct talks with the Afghan government, with a cease-fire at the top of the agenda.But after secretly planning a m
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