Secret talks held between Afghan Taliban and US in three countries: Reports
KABUL- Reports of the United States and Taliban political leaders having held secret talks has been met by mixed reaction in the country.
One negotiator said Taliban delegations had been joined by "never more than five" Americans for a series of meetings in hotel suites in Doha, Qatar.
NBC quoted three Taliban commanders who said four of the group’s political leaders met with US officials on a number of occasions and that talks are ongoing.
The US State Department has not confirmed having held talks with Taliban leaders, but has said Washington is eager to end the war.
"The United States is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government," a spokesman for the state department told NBC News.
Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) meanwhile said government has called on all foreign countries to use what influence they might have on the Taliban to get them to the negotiations table.
The HPC said however no talks will have a positive outcome unless they are Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.
“If the negotiations are not done between the Afghans and if other people do the negotiations on behalf of the Afghans, such negotiations will not result in peace,” HPC head secretariat Mohammad Akram Khpolwak said.
NBC meanwhile reported that the secretive talks have been held in hotels and that amid concerns about their own safety, the Taliban delegates have taken steps to not be identified by the intelligence services of Russia, China and Arab countries.
The news channel also reported that the Taliban leaders arrived at the meetings separately and did not even enter the meeting rooms together.
NBC News meanwhile stated in its report that it could not confirm the accounts by the Taliban officials, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
But one Meshrano Jirga senator, Gul Ahmad Azimi said: “If the Americans directly enter into negotiations with the anti-armed groups, then the existence of the Afghan people and Afghan government will be questioned.”
According to the NBC report, the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, changing prisoners and letting the Afghans decide their own future are the issues that Taliban leaders have mentioned in their talks with US officials.
This comes after the New York Times reported last week that US President Donald Trump’s administration has told its top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, in the hope of jump-starting negotiations to end the 17-year war.
In further developments around peace, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said on Saturday at a press conference in Kabul that there was the possibility of another ceasefire.
He said government might announce another truce over Eid al-Adha next month.
Chakhansuri said both sides, government and Taliban, are eager to announce a ceasefire.
“There is the possibility that a ceasefire will be announced over Eid al-Adha. But it’s details will be shared with you through the media at the time of the announcement,” said Chakhansuri.