Saturday, 24 August, 2019

Taliban Says It Is Meeting U.S. Officials On December 17

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Patty Aguilar | 18 December, 2018, 18:15

Delivering on its commitment to bring peace to the region, Pakistan on Monday successfully brought the Afghan Taliban to the table in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the latest round of talks between the militant outfit and USA officials as diplomatic moves toward agreeing to the basis for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan continue.

The Taliban held another round of talks with USA officials on Monday, this time in the United Arab Emirates and also involving Saudi, Pakistani and Emirati representatives, part of the latest attempt to bring a negotiated end to Afghanistan's 17-year war.

Khalil Minawi, director of Afghanistan's state-run Bakhtar news agency, also confirmed the meeting.

According to diplomatic sources, Pakistan had helped in arranging the direct talks between the US and Taliban, creating a ray of hope for end of conflict, after US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, earlier this month, formally seeking Islamabad's help in arranging the talks with Taliban.

PM Imran responded with a tweet that said, "Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the U.S. should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before".

The group said last month that it held three days of talks with Khalilzad in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office. Talks are being held in UAE.

Taliban representatives would not meet with Afghan government representatives who are in the U.A.E., the spokesman also said.

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Mohammad Nateqi, a former Afghan diplomat, said that a deciding factor for Saturday's agreement to work depended on building mutual trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan given the fact that similar conversations have taken place between Kabul and Islamabad earlier as well, without bearing any fruit.

Ghani has formed a team to negotiate peace with the Taliban but the movement once again rebuffed the opening on Monday, saying that some media reports suggesting the two sides would meet were "mere propaganda".

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently formed a 12-strong team to negotiate with the Taliban, but has said any deal could take at least five years to implement.

Another senior Taliban official told Yousafzai that it was clear the Trump administration wanted to end US military involvement in America's longest-ever war as soon as possible, leaving it, "up to the Taliban how to cash in on this golden opportunity".

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born former US ambassador to Kabul, was named to oversee Washington's peace efforts earlier this year but the United States has insisted that any final settlement must be led by Afghans themselves.

He made the remarks during the first meeting of the advisory board for peace which was held in ARG Presidential Palace today.

Trump also sought Pakistan's assistance in bringing the Taliban leadership to the negotiating table, it was revealed by the Pakistani premier. He said the meetings were continuing. Washington has suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan. Khan has also described the USA contribution of $20 billion to Pakistan as minuscule.

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