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U.S. envoy announces framework of U.S.-Taliban peace plan

By Clyde Hughes
U.S. envoy announces framework of U.S.-Taliban peace plan
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, third from left, briefs Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (C) in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday about the progress on the six days of talks with the Taliban. Photo courtesy of Afghanistan Presidential Palace/EPA-EFE

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- As U.S. and Taliban negotiators close in on an agreement that would see American troops leave Afghanistan, that nation's president said Monday his government must be a part of any deal.

In a televised address, President Ashraf Ghani also said the Taliban must accept Afghans' demand for peace.

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"Either they join the great nation of Afghanistan with a united voice, or be the tool of foreign objectives," he said.

So far, Ghani's government has been left out of direct negotiations. Over the past week, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been meeting with Taliban officials in Qatar.

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Khalilzad said progress has been made in Qatar over the past week and a deal has been agreed to in principle by both sides.

Under the proposed peace agreement, the Taliban would promise not to allow al-Qaida or any terror group to use Afghanistan as a base of operations in exchange for a U.S. troop withdrawal. The Taliban also has asked to be part of any interim government.

The Taliban said the U.S. government commit to a troop withdrawal date before it engages with the Afghan government. Ghani pushed back on that demand Monday, saying Kabul needs the foreign troops, and they will eventually leave under an "orderly plan."

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The Taliban has balked an critical intra-Afghanistan talks, considering Afghan leaders puppets of the United States.

Khalilzad highlighted the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan in another Twitter post Monday that included a photo of himself in a Sunday meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

"Peace is America's highest priority in Afghanistan, a goal we believe all Afghans share," Khalilzad wrote.

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