Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday voiced cautious optimism about a partial truce agreed between the Taliban and US and said that a further announcement was expected in the coming 10 days.
The agreement for a seven-day “reduction in violence” announced this week after long negotiations between Washington and the jihadists has raised hopes that a comprehensive peace deal could follow.
But it is still not clear when the period will begin and Ghani said that the Taliban’s sincerity in entering the agreement was unproven.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Ghani said, “That’s the million-dollar question”.
“You’re not going to find an answer to this question unless you engage in the peace process.” The acid test of the Taliban’s sincerity will be their willingness to accept elections, the Afghan leader added.
The US wants to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan, which currently numbers between 12,000 and 13,000, with President Donald Trump keen to make good on a promise to bring troops home after 18 years of war.
On Saturday, at least eight civilians, including a child were killed in an airstrike that targeted Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
However, the Taliban claimed on its social media channels that 11 civilians were killed in the airstrike by government forces.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US president had given the go-ahead for further talks. He hailed recent progress, but said the negotiations were complicated and that a peace deal had not yet been reached, the BBC reported.
Earlier, the Afghan government disclosed a list of delegates for the peace negotiating team once the US and the Taliban finalize their peace deal.
Last year, in September, Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation had said that the US and Taliban are “at the threshold of an agreement” that would reduce violence and open the door for Afghans to sit together and negotiate.
On December 19, Khalilzad also said that the US and Taliban were approaching an important stage in the Afghan peace process.
But US President Donald Trump called an abrupt halt to the process after an American was killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul
The draft agreement ensured that over 5,000 US troops will withdraw from five American bases in the first 135 days after the signing of the deal.
Since the end of the NATO combat mission in January 2015, the US maintains one contingent within the framework of the new allied mission of advising Afghan troops and another for “anti-terrorist” operations.