United States envoy for Afghan peace Khalilzad meets Taliban officials in Qatar

Lamar Ellis
October 16, 2018

On Saturday, the Taliban confirmed their delegation met USA envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss "ways of finding a peaceful end to the occupation of Afghanistan".

Taliban said in the statement that the head of the Qatar political office Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, Mawalwi Salam Hanafi, Shuhabuddin Delawar, Qari Deen Moh.

"Both sides agreed to continue meeting in the future", Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.

Dozens of Afghan police and soldiers were killed Saturday night into Sunday morning in the Farah and Zabul Provinces, in a series of Taliban attacks mostly targeted Afghan military checkpoints.

The direct negotiations - a longstanding Taliban demand - were held as Khalilzad seeks to coordinate efforts with regional countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, to convince Afghanistan's largest militant group to engage in talks.

The latest blast occurred in the northeast province of Takhar as Taliban confirmed that its leaders met USA envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss ending the Afghan conflict.

The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as a reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with the mission lasting until December 28, 2014.

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"Khalilzad's meetings with the Taliban are an indication that efforts toward launching a peace process are slowly but finally headed in the right direction". Washington has neither confirmed nor denied direct talks with the Taliban.

"The good news is that there's never been a better opportunity. And the United States willingness, with approval from Kabul, to speak directly with the Taliban means that a key Taliban precondition has been met", Mr Kugelman said.

The reported July meeting followed an unprecedented ceasefire involving Afghan security forces and the Taliban in June, which fuelled hopes that fighting could be brought to an end after 17 years.

Khalilzad visited Kabul as US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation on Sunday where he met with a wide range of stakeholders. The strikes come a week before voters cast their ballots in parliamentary elections across the war-torn country. There was no claim of responsibility for the bombing.

U.S. President Donald Trump bemoaned the extraordinary cost of the war in Afghanistan while campaigning for president, when he advocated an end to U.S. involvement in the conflict.

At the request of the United States, a Taliban office was established in Doha in 2013 to facilitate peace talks but it was shut shortly after opening when it came under pressure over a flag hung outside the office, the same flag that was flown during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

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