A spokesman of the Taliban political office in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, has said that the US President Donald Trump’s decision to call off negotiations with the group was “surprising” and “astonishing” to the group as they were preparing for the signing of a peace deal which was “finalized in principle” when they heard about the move.
Talking to Al Jazeera in an interview published on Sept. 12, Mr. Shaheen said the Taliban is ready for negotiations with Afghans, but a ceasefire will be possible when all foreign forces leave the country.
The two sides held nine rounds of talks over the last year. US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad led the talks from the United States side while the Taliban team was led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the group, and Abbas Stanekzai, former head of Taliban’s political office in Doha.
Mr. Shaheen said that at first, it was decided to reduce violence when the US starts withdrawing its forces from the country. He said they wanted to provide the US a “safe passage” for withdrawal.
According to him, the two sides were discussing the venue and date of the signing ceremony of the peace deal when Mr. Trump tweeted about stopping the talks with the Taliban.
“About other Afghans, we are ready to talk with them if there is ceasefire with them, there will be no attack [against] them. This is another aspect of the Afghan issue,” Mr. Shaheen said.
“It was astonishing for us because we had already concluded the peace agreement with the American negotiating team,” he said. “One copy of the agreement was given to the Qatari side, we got one copy and one copy was with the American team. And after that, Mullah Sahib Bradar, the chief of the political office, and deputy Amir of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan for political affairs, and his team had a meeting with Dr. [Zalmay Khalilzad] and Gen. Scott Miller. They were happy with this agreement and they talked about the ceremony of signing the peace agreement. Amidst that, the [Trump] tweet very surprising and astonishing for us.”
This comes as a new survey by The Balance shows that America’s war in Afghanistan has cost $975 billion.
Their data is based on research from Brown University and it makes the war in Afghanistan second only to the inflation-adjusted $4.1 trillion the United States spent during the Second World War in terms of the overall cost.
“The president has said since his campaign days his goal was achieving peace in Afghanistan and bringing our troops home,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told reporters on Thursday.
The US President Donald Trump called off negotiations with the Taliban after the group carried out an attack in downtown Kabul which killed 13 people, among them a US soldier.