The Soviet-backed communist government in Kabul agreed Thursday to a nine-month withdrawal timetable for Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The announcement came on the second day of indirect United Nations-sponsored talks between Pakistani and Afghan officials.
Afghan Foreign Minister Abdul Wakil said that his government also agreed to a ``front-loading'' of Soviet troops during the early stages of the proposed withdrawal. ``Front-loading,'' a concept insisted upon by the United States and Pakistan, requires that the bulk of the estimated 115,000-12,000 Soviet troops be withdrawn during the first three months of any pullout period.
In accordance with this, Mr. Wakil declared 50 percent of the troops would leave within the first three months. But the Afghan representative did not indicate whether the first withdrawal would include the specialized or airborne forces - estimated by military analysts at 30,000 troops - which have been most involved in fighting the Afghan resistance.
According to Wakil, his delegation's acceptance of Pakistan's demands for a shorter pullout period indicated that negotiations were well on their way to being ``completely finalized''
``Nothing remains to be disputed or negotiated,'' Wakil said at a press conference following a meeting with UN negotiator Diego Cordovez. The UN undersecretary-general has been mediating between the Pakistani and Afghan delegations since the two sides first met at the Palais des Nations overlooking Lake Geneva in mid-1982. Since that time, the two sides' positions on a timetable have narrowed from a difference of 43 months to two months.
In what is widely seen as an effort to put further pressure on the Pakistanis to sign the Geneva accords, the Afghan minister implied that as far as he was concerned, the negotiations could be concluded within a short period given ``the right political intentions.''
Earlier Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zain Noorani had said that arrangements for an interim government must be made before an agreement could be signed without offering a clear indication as to when this administration should be formed.
``We are firmly convinced that a settlement without creating circumstances of peace and stability in Afghanistan would not persuade over 5 million refugees ... to return to Afghanistan,'' he said.
[Asked when such a government would take office, the Associated Press reports that Noorani said the timing depends ``on when efforts to bring about a settlement among the Afghans can be visibly seen and when we are able to persuade all parties concerned '' to establish it.]
However, UN envoy Cordovez had said Wednesday that the future makeup of the Kabul government was outside the scope of the Geneva negotiations. The Soviets also have said they are not interested in influencing its composition.
Mr. Noorani returns to Pakistan this weekend for consultations, but is expected to resume talks here Monday.
Afghanistan's Wakil has warned that any slowdown in the negotiations over further Pakistani demands would be regarded as a ``noncontribution toward the solution.''