Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

Afghan Taliban militants and residents stand on an armoured Humvee vehicle of the Afghan National Army (ANA) as they celebrate a ceasefire on the third day of Eid in Maiwand district of Kandahar province. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2020

Taliban aim to sign deal with US by end of month

  • Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence
  • The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year

KABUL: The Taliban are aiming to reach a withdrawal agreement with the US by the end of January and are prepared to “scale down” military operations ahead of signing the deal, according to their chief spokesman.
The statement by Suhail Shaheen to Pakistani daily Dawn comes as the group and the US held discussions in Doha this week, after insurgent sources told AFP they had offered to initiate a brief cease-fire.
“We have agreed to scale down military operations in days leading up to the signing of the peace agreement with the United States,” Shaheen told Dawn in a report published Saturday.
He added that the Taliban were “optimistic” a deal with Washington could be signed before the end of the month and that the reduction in fighting across the country would also include the targeting of Afghan forces.
“It’s now a matter of days,” said the spokesman.
Washington has for weeks been calling on the militants to reduce violence, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave the country in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight.
The Taliban and the US had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
Talks were later restarted between the two sides in December in Qatar, but were paused again following an attack near the Bagram military base in Afghanistan, which is run by the US.
Any agreement with the Taliban is expected to have two main pillars — an American withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a commitment by the insurgents not to offer sanctuary to militants — and would ultimately have to be given final approval by Trump.
The Taliban’s relationship with Al-Qaeda was the main reason cited for the US invasion more than 18 years ago.
A deal would hopefully pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.
Many observers agree that the war can no longer be won militarily, and that the only route to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is for an agreement between the Taliban and the US-backed government in Kabul.
The Taliban have until now refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they consider an illegitimate regime, raising fears that fighting will continue regardless of any deal ironed out with the Americans.


Abdulrahman Al-Asim appointed CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Libraries Authority

Updated 16 min 39 sec ago

Abdulrahman Al-Asim appointed CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Libraries Authority

  • The Libraries Authority is one of 11 new bodies launched by the Ministry of Culture

RIYADH: Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan on Wednesday appointed Abdulrahman Al-Asim as CEO of the Libraries Authority, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Asim will be responsible for the development of the libraries sector with all the related systems, staff and infrastructure.

The authority’s role will include setting a strategy for the libraries sector, following up on its implementation after it is approved by the Ministry of Culture, establishing regulations and standards for the sector, and coordinating with the authorities to promote reading by developing the library environment and enhancing its services.

Al-Asim served the cultural sector in previous periods through managing book fairs and his relationship with the reading society in the Kingdom. He is currently the manager of the Riyadh International Bookfair. The authority will be the official body that issues licenses for relevant activities. It will also build a database for the libraries sector, encourage financing and investment, organize conferences and events, and provide professional training programs for those interested in the field.

The Libraries Authority is one of 11 new bodies launched by the Ministry of Culture to oversee cultural sectors in the Kingdom.