KABUL -- The Taliban have promised to US forces to reduce attacks and casualties after a major assault on Lashkargah, Helmand Province, raised questions about ongoing peace talks, officials said Thursday (October 15).
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said that he and Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, discussed the state of the peace talks several times with the Taliban.
"We agreed to re-set actions by strictly adhering to implementation of all elements of the US-Taliban Agreement and all commitments made," he tweeted. "This means reduced numbers of operations."
"At present too many Afghans are dying. With the re-set, we expect that number to drop significantly," said Khalilzad, who negotiated a February 29 deal with the Taliban to pull out US forces and start intra-Afghan peace talks.
"Attacks have been on the rise in recent weeks -- threatening the peace process and alarming the Afghan people and their regional and international supporters," he said.
Taliban-US discussions confirmed
Taliban chief negotiator Abdul Hakim conferred on the peace process with Khalilzad and Miller over the past few days, the Taliban confirmed.
Both sides stressed the importance of the US-Taliban agreement and discussed ways to ensure its "full implementation", tweeted Mohammad Naseem Wardak, the Taliban's spokesperson for the group's political office in Doha.
Under the February deal, the Taliban said they would not attack cities while the United States said it would refrain from assaults on the insurgents except to defend Afghan forces.
Afghan officials accused the Taliban of breaching the agreement with an assault on Lashkargah, from which about 30,000 people have fled in recent days.
The attack prompted the US forces to call in air strikes to defend Afghan troops.
The Taliban also agreed not to allow Afghanistan to be used by foreign extremists and halted operations against NATO forces.
The Taliban did not promise to end violence against the internationally recognised government in Kabul but said they would discuss a "permanent and comprehensive ceasefire" in peace talks.
NATO is committed to Afghan security
NATO, leader of the counter-insurgency coalition in Afghanistan, is committed to the nation's security, said its chief, who confirmed that he had spoken to Khalilzad.
"The Doha talks offer the best chance for peace, but Taliban must keep their promises and reduce the unacceptable level of violence," Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted October 15. "NATO remains committed to Afghanistan's security."