(Arab news): The Taliban spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, announced last week that the US and the Taliban were close to a peace agreement and that only operational details remained to be finalised. The head of the US delegation, Zalmay Khalilzad, arrived in Kabul on Sunday to seek the backing of President Ashraf Ghani. Once the Kabul government is on board, the agreement will be signed in Doha before representatives from several governments. The agreement provides for the phased withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan over the next 15-18 months; a commitment by the Taliban not to provide space and sanctuary to extremist groups in territory controlled by it; implementation of a cease-fire; and a dialogue between the Taliban and the Afghan government to finalise a political setup that would accommodate the Taliban in the country’s divided and contentious political order. The intra-Afghan dialogue is expected to take place in Oslo a few weeks after the agreement is signed. This will set the stage for national elections on Sept. 28. The US-Taliban agreement marks the end of the US military intervention in Afghanistan from October 2001, when it attacked the Taliban “emirate” in response to the 9/11 assaults on the American homeland. Though the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces were decimated, and their top leaders fled to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas for sanctuary, the US and other coalition forces stayed on in the country to try to shape a new liberal and democratic order. This ambitious agenda was never realized. The Taliban returned to Afghanistan from 2004 onwards and soon controlled large swaths of territory, with huge financial resources from a boost in poppy production. President Obama, recognising the futility of the US venture, began the withdrawal of US forces, bringing their numbers down from 100,000 in 2010 to 8,400 in January 2017. Trump increased this number by 4,000 in 2017. The military intervention has been a sustained disaster: US forces suffered over 2,300 dead and over 20,000 wounded, while the Afghans have suffered 20,000 dead every year. This year the government and its US allies have caused more Afghan civilian deaths than the Taliban and other militants: Up to the end of July, they had killed over 700 civilians as against 500 killed by the Taliban and other militants.