Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Taliban confirms meeting with USA peace envoy in Qatar

1 December 2008- ICRC Headquarters Kabul Afghanistan-Syed Mohammad, a Pastun wheat farmer from Tarin Kowt District in Uruzgan travelled for two days and two nights to the ICRC offices in Kabul for a video conference The Red Cross has run schemes including prison visits in Afghanistan Credit Jonathan Saruk for the Telegraph
Patty Aguilar | 14 October, 2018, 21:42

The Taliban say their delegation has met with USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss ending the Afghan conflict.

Khalilzad's trip started out from Afghanistan.

Taliban leaders and the newly-appointed USA special envoy for peace efforts in Afghanistan will continue to hold meetings to discuss ways to end the ongoing war, the Taliban said in a statement on Saturday in the first official confirmation of talks between the two sides. The Wall Street Journal reported that "a personal familiar with the gathering" also confirmed the meeting independently.

The State Department declined to say whether the meeting with Taliban officials in Doha took place.

According to their statement the group's delegation stressed the need for a "real and Afghan-inclusive solution" and that the two sides agreed to continue the meetings in the future.

While the content of the negotiations has not been disclosed, US President Donald Trump has called for a strategy to end the 17-year-old Afghan War, which Mother Jones' Tim Murphy not-so-precisely called "a war old enough to enlist itself".

The Taliban now controls or contest almost half of Afghanistan and it continues to inflict heavy casualties on Afghan security forces, bringing more territory under its control. The insurgent group has been calling for direct talks with the USA, blaming Washington for starting the Afghan war.

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A spokesman for the USA embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the Taliban statement. "This is something that will be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, but supported by the USA government", she said.

A statement from the Afghan president's office on October 13 said Khalilzad told Ghani and Abdullah that the United States was "ready to do anything to help with the peace process", but insisted the process should be led by the Afghan government.

The US media noted that Mr Khalilzad, an Afghanistan-born former US ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations, will have to perform a hard balancing act between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Other media outlets speculated that Washington may not accept this demand.

The source has not disclosed further information in this regard and it is yet not clear which important topics were discussed during the meeting.

Before meeting the Taliban representatives, Mr Khalilzad stopped in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It did not mention anything about the US envoy's meeting with the Taliban.

"Special Representative Khalilzad held a number of meetings with a wide range of stakeholders as part of his trip to explore how best to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan", the source added.

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