Fighting in Afghanistan between the US-backed government and the Taliban has been raging in recent months, and the Taliban has been making significant territorial gains. Despite the violence, a Taliban spokesman said Monday that the peace process between the warring sides will be “accelerated” and suggested that the Taliban could present a peace proposal as soon as next month.
“The peace talks and process will be accelerated in the coming days…and they are expected to enter an important stage, naturally it will be about peace plans,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters. “Possibly it will take a month to reach that stage when both sides will share their written peace plan.”
Mujahid said the Taliban was still ready for talks even though it is making territorial gains. “Although we have the upper hand on the battlefield, we are very serious about talks and dialogue,” he said.
Mujahid’s comments come as the US is close to completing its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Last week, the US left Bagram Air Base, the largest military facility in the country that was a major symbol of the US occupation. While the withdrawal is moving along, the US plans to keep a decent-sized troop presence at its embassy in Kabul.
Reports say the US might leave 650 to 1,000 troops to guard the embassy and the airport in Kabul. The Pentagon has even approved a new military command structure that will be run out of the embassy, a sign that the continued US presence will do more than just provide security for diplomatic staff.
The US-Taliban peace signed in Doha last year called for all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan by May 2021. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to keep groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS from gaining a foothold and agreed to pursue intra-Afghan talks to work towards a power-sharing deal.
President Biden broke the deal by pushing back the withdrawal deadline to September 11th, a date the Taliban has accepted. But amid reports of a continued US presence beyond September 11th, the Taliban is warning if any US troops remain, they will view it as a violation of the Doha agreement. If the Taliban believes the agreement has been broken again, it will give the group less motivation to pursue the intra-Afghan talks.