U.S. Envoy Meets Taliban In Push for Afghan Peace Talks

U.S. Envoy Meets Taliban In Push for Afghan Peace Talks

A Taliban delegation has met with USA envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to discuss ending the Afghan conflict, the militant group said Saturday, in the first official confirmation of talks between the two sides.

In a statement sent to the media, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said that both sides agreed to hold further talks, specifically on the issue of the "occupation" of Afghanistan and to work towards a peaceful solution to the war.

Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Saturday and briefed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about his 10-day tour of four countries, which ended with the meeting with leaders of the hardline Islamist militant group.

As Afghan security forces struggle to provide security, the United States has been seeking peace talks with the leaders of the Taliban insurgency. A Taliban official who was part of the four-person delegation to that meeting said it produced "very positive signals".

Last week the Taliban demanded a complete withdrawal of foreign forces as the only solution to end the war that began with the 2001 ousting of the former Taliban government by USA -led forces after it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The Taliban called the polls a USA -manipulated event to further their hold on the country.

"The Taliban have also suffered huge losses", Jawed added.

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A statement from the Afghan president's office on October 13 said Khalilzad told Ghani and Abdullah that the United States was "ready to do anything to help with the peace process", but insisted the process should be led by the Afghan government. He began his official trip to the region a week ago that took him to Kabul, neighboring Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Trump administration held their second direct talks with the Afghan Taliban in Qatar this week as the US State Department underlined the desire to push forward the Afghan peace process.

She also noted that the USA special envoy was meeting a wide range of people in Afghanistan - from President Ghani to Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, political groups, the High Peace Council, Afghan media, and civil society.

But continued fighting has raised questions about the viability of the USA strategy to end the war, which for the past year has focused on forcing the militants to the negotiating table, largely via more air strikes.

Taliban officials want the withdrawal of American forces and a government in Kabul that reflects the group's view.

In a separate report from eastern Logar province Saturday, at least five civilians were killed when a bomb exploded during a wedding ceremony, said Shah Poor Ahmadzai, the provincial police chief's spokesman.

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