US, Taliban agree to draft peace framework: envoy

American and Taliban officials have agreed to the framework of a peace deal that could lead to an imminent pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, according to a report.

"Our commitment is to provide peace and prevent any possible disaster", Ghani, who met with the United States envoy late Sunday in Kabul, said in an address to the nation.

Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday to try to secure cooperation from Afghanistan's president after breakthroughs in peace negotiations with Taliban leaders in Qatar.

Ghani also reiterated his call on the Taliban to engage "in direct talks with the Afghan government".

Khalilzad told the Times he was attempting to persuade the Taliban to negotiate the future relationship directly with Kabul and denied an interim government had been discussed by US representatives.

"Taliban want United States withdrawal from Afghanistan, but the USA has not yet agreed with them in this regard".

Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a former Taliban official and now a member of the High Peace Council, an independent body of clerics and respected Afghan figures, said he believes the Qatar talks resulted in a "good understanding between both sides", but more discussions are needed in the coming weeks or months.

"We want peace quickly, we want it soon, but we want it with prudence", Ghani said.

"We shouldn't forget that the victims of the war are Afghans and thus the peace initiative must be owned by Afghans".

Civilians continue to pay a awful price for the Taliban insurgency, with some estimates showing the Afghan conflict overtook Syria to become the world's deadliest a year ago.

Ghani has called for talks before, and outlined a peace plan a year ago which included a ceasefire and bringing the insurgents into mainstream politics.

"The U.S. insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks", Khalilzad said, according to a statement released by Ghani's office.

Speaking to The New York Times, however, Khalilzad said his team had agreed a "draft of the framework" for a peace process with the Taliban, noting that it still had to be "fleshed out before it becomes an agreement". In a series of tweets on Saturday, Khalilzad announced he had briefed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

"The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for worldwide terrorist groups or individuals", he said.

"My role is to facilitate" such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad said according to Ghani, adding that the discussions are ongoing. "Let's assume, if peace is sealed with the Taliban and the foreigners are evacuated, then what is the guarantee that the chaos of 1990s are not repeated again?", he asked.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was "progress" at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire were "not true".

Afghans have expressed tentative hopes about the talks tempered by fears of an American exit.

The Islamic State group is also a potent, growing force in Afghanistan, where it is fighting a fierce turf war with the Taliban and has claimed responsibility for many devastating attacks, especially in Kabul.

The Taliban and USA officials have agreed to continue negotiations, though no date has been publicly announced.

However the hardline Islamist group has reportedly given assurances it will not allow al-Qaeda and IS militants to attack the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan.

  • Joey Payne