Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The Taliban and the United States are close to completing a peace agreement to end the 18-year Afghanistan war, according to the fundamentalist Islamic group.
Suhail Shaheen, Taliban's political spokesman, told Al Jazeera Wednesday that the two sides were close on finalizing the deal that would see U.S. and foreign forces withdraw from the Middle Eastern country in exchange for the Taliban's commitment to not use the nation to launch terrorist attacks at the United States.
"The talks continue today and we have reached the last point of the agreement," he said. "The final point is the implementation and the mechanism of the deal, which is being discussed."
The announcement comes as Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that the focus of any deal with the Taliban is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a "sanctuary" for terrorism that can threaten the United States.
"Number one is we don't want Afghanistan to be a sanctuary from which the homeland can be threatened, the American people and our allies can be threatened," he said in a press briefing at the Pentagon. "And the other is we want peace and stability in Afghanistan for the Afghan people."
He said he sees it as a way to initiate inter-Afghan dialogue, which largely hasn't occurred as the Taliban won't negotiate with the Afghan government as they view it as a puppet of the United States.
He also said it is too early to talk about the withdrawal of the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops in the country.
"So I think it's premature," he said. "I'm not using the 'withdraw' word right not. ... We're going to try and have an effort to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan."
He said any deal made will be conditions-based, which makes him "confident" the deal is worth pursuing.
Responding to a question concerning the Taliban giving a 24-month window for all U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan, Dunford said it was "mostly speculation."
"The president's been very clear about Afghanistan not being a sanctuary from which we can be attacked and that this is going to be done in conjunction with Afghan leadership," he said.