It took three-plus days, but the Taliban finally spoke publicly about the reported peace deal to end American involvement in the war in Afghanistan. A Taliban negotiator corroborated the US version of the process, claiming that negotiations had been completed and that only a brief period of a “favorable environment” was necessary to signing a final accord. The bigger question will be whether the Taliban can exercise enough discipline to ensure that this “favorable environment” extends long enough to get to the final signatures:
The Taliban said Monday that a peace deal with the United States will be signed by the end of the month, with the top U.S. negotiator describing himself as “cautiously optimistic” about the process.
Abdul Salam Hanafi, a senior Taliban leader and member of the political commission in Doha, Qatar, said in a video message shared with journalists that after negotiations, “both sides have initiated the final draft of the peace agreement. Now talks are concluded.” …
In his first public comments since the peace talks breakthrough, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief negotiator with the Taliban, said he’s “cautiously optimistic.”
“But I am realistic enough to know that there are lots of challenges ahead,” he added.
Khalilzad said that while he had received security guarantees from both the Afghan government and the Taliban, the potential remained for “spoilers” both inside Afghanistan and outside the country to upend months of diplomatic progress.
The “favorable environment” clearly refers to the seven-day “reduction in violence” deal announced by Defense Secretary Mark Esper last week. That will reportedly begin by this weekend, but it still hasn’t been clearly defined in public terms, either by level of hostilities still allowed or geographical limits. That’s because it’s primarily designed for deniability, the New York Times suggests: