WASHINGTON - Top US diplomat for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad held direct talks with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar to discuss ways to end the war, a New York Times report said on Saturday, with militants saying the meeting also discussed “end of occupation”.
It was the second ever meeting between Taliban and top American officials as the White House pushed for direct talks with the Taliban, seeking to end the longest war in the American history. The war has claimed live of more than 2,300 troops, including more than 1,800 death as a result of hostile action. More than 20,000 American service-members have also been wounded in the 17-year-old war.
Khalilzad, who served as US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, was appointed as President Trump’s special adviser to Afghanistan last month and tasked with try to bring the Afghan government and the Taliban to a reconciliation. Last week, he also visited Pakistan, which, the report said, was seen crucial to end conflict with the Taliban.
The NYT, quoting officials and a Taliban statement, said in its report Khalilzad flew to Kabul on Saturday to meet the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, after his Friday meeting with the Taliban representatives. A statement from Taliban said that six of its members attended the meeting in a direct contact with the American officials that Western diplomats have described as “talks before talks”.
In a statement issued in Kabul on Saturday, Taliban said that they “talked about the end of occupation and peaceful resolution for the Afghan issue” and both sides “agreed to continue their meetings in the future”. The NYT said that Khalilzad did to respond to request for comments on his meeting with the Taliban and it was not entirely clear what the two sides discussed. Taliban have long said that withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was essential for any negotiations to end the war.
The report quoted an unnamed Taliban source as saying that the meeting was exploratory and that the discussions had included an “end of the occupation” as well as removing Taliban leaders from sanctions lists.
“The United States was trying to make a meeting between the Taliban and Afghan government happen, but the Taliban did not accept that,” Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, an Afghan analyst told the NYT, who has served as an official during the Taliban government and has still maintained contacts with them. He said that the meeting was positive step toward a peace process.
The meeting in Doha came days after Taliban issued a statement, calling on Afghans to boycott parliamentary elections next week. - APP