US-Taliban Talks Send ‘Very Positive Signals’
A meeting between a senior US diplomat and Taliban representatives in Doha last week to discuss a possible ceasefire ended with “very positive signals” and a decision to hold more meetings.
The meeting between a delegation led by Alice Wells, deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Taliban representatives was first reported in the WS-J.
According to a Taliban official, who said he was part of a 4-member delegation, there were “very positive signals” from the meeting, which he said was conducted in a “friendly atmosphere” in a Doha hotel.
“You cannot call it peace talks,” he said. “These are a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks. We agreed to meet again soon and resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue.”
He said the talks had been held without the presence of Afghan government officials at the insistence of the Taliban.
The move comes as the Afghan government and the United States have stepped up efforts to end the 17 year-war in Afghanistan following the unprecedented three-day truce during last month’s Eid al-Fitr holiday.
The truce, which saw unarmed Taliban fighters mingling with soldiers on the streets of Kabul and other cities, offered the first concrete vision of a peace settlement since an earlier attempt at peace talks broke down in Y 2015.
As hopes of possible formal negotiations have risen, the United States has agreed to participate directly in the talks, although it insists the process will remain under Afghan leadership.
The Taliban official said the talks took place with the approval of the leadership council. The 2 sides had discussed proposals to allow the Taliban free movement in two provinces where they would not be attacked, an idea that President Ashraf Ghani has already rejected. They also discussed Taliban participation in the Afghan government.
“The only demand they made was to allow their military bases in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban official.
The meeting in Doha, where the Taliban maintains a political office, followed 2 earlier meetings between US officials and Taliban representatives in recent months, the sources said.
“We have held 3 meetings with the US and we reached a conclusion to continue talks for meaningful negotiations,” said a a Taliban official.
He said they would first exchange prisoners and then discuss other issues that could restore peace to Afghanistan.
“However, our delegation made it clear to them that peace can only be restored to Afghanistan when all foreign forces are withdrawn,” he said.
The United States pressed the Taliban side to accept the ceasefire offer for Eid-ul Adha, often known in Afghanistan as Eid-al Qurban, which this year starts on 22 August.
So a long-term ceasefire is expected on Eid-ul Adha. Both sides agreed upon the continuation of the meetings and talks and another meeting is expected before Eid, but the exact time and place is not clear yet.
The State Department confirmed that Secretary Wells had visited Doha but has said only that she met Qatar government officials, including the deputy prime minister, to talk about their contributions to the situation in Afghanistan.
Asked about talks with the Taliban, a State Department spokesman referred to a 9 July comment from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that the United States would “support, facilitate, and participate in these peace discussions, but peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them.”
Mr. Ghani’s main spokesman Haroon Chakansuri said last week that peace talks would be Afghan-led and would build on international consensus in support of peace.
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