The top US official’s statement comes amid reports of Taliban allegedly backing off the peace agreement.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the start of the Afghan-Taliban peace talks have “opened new and unprecedented opportunities for peace and prosperity”, according to a tweet by the State Department.
Peace talks between the warring parties were launched in Doha in September, though differences have stalled progress being made. The negotiations are addressing various issues, among them the disarmament of Taliban fighters and militias, maintaining a permanent ceasefire, and constitutional changes.
— Department of State (@StateDept) December 1, 2020
On Monday, Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman for the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani suggested a breakthrough was on the horizon.
“The negotiating teams have so far agreed on all 21 articles that provide guiding principles for the negotiations,” Sediqqi said.
However, reports that surfaced on Wednesday said the Taliban pulled back from signing the peace agreements just moments before the breakthrough.
According to a recent Reuters report, the Taliban protested against the document’s mentioning of the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” in reference to the government, which it refuses to recognise.
A diplomat in Kabul told Reuters that the chief Afghan government negotiator was on the verge of signing the agreement as the “chief negotiator for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”, prompting objection from the Taliban.
“At this time, they continue to debate the preamble, in which some issues need further clarification” said Sediqqi.
Although the Taliban has yet to comment on recent developments, the movement said it was willing to negotiate with the opposing delegation without recognising it as representatives of the government.
“We are ready to take the talks forward with the current team as Afghans; we don’t know them as a government team,” Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, told Reuters.
Furthermore, a diplomatic source also told Reuters that there have been disagreements of the term “republic” and the Taliban referring to itself as an “Islamic Emirate”.
“The differences over the words ‘republic’ and ‘emirate’ triggered a deep suspicion between the negotiators,” added Mujahid. “The problem is complex as it leads to [implications over] the vision and aspiration of a country and how it wants to be projected and perceived.”
Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced plans to withdraw at least 2,000 troops out of Afghanistan as per a previous Washington-Taliban agreement signed in February, in hopes of a complete US withdrawal by 2021.
The Afghan government and the Taliban have welcomed Qatar’s offer to mediate in efforts to resolve differences.