Afghan peace talks: Taliban to meet US, Pakistan officials soon?
(Sourced from PTI)
The Taliban said yesterday its negotiators would next week meet the top US and Pakistani officials including Prime Minister Imran Khan during a key round of talks in Islamabad as part of the ongoing Afghan peace talks. Neither Washington nor Islamabad immediately confirmed the announcement by the Taliban. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the Taliban's delegation would also meet Prime Minister Imran Khan.
On the "formal invitation of the government of Pakistan, another meeting is scheduled to take place between the negotiation teams of the Islamic Emirate and the US on 18th of February, 2019 in Islamabad," Mujahid said in a statement. Mujahid said the regular round of talks was already scheduled to be held on February 25 in Qatar. He talked about the meeting with Khan.
Taliban, in meeting with Khan, would have "comprehensive discussions about Pak-Afghan relations and issues pertaining to Afghan refugees and businessmen". Though there was no confirmation, Pakistan diplomatic sources said that the Taliban delegation would visit Pakistan and hold talks with both American and Pakistani officials.
The Taliban and the US are in a discussion to end more than a 17-year long bloody war in Afghanistan. The Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan, and are more powerful than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Special US Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad Taliban representatives held talks in Doha last month.
Khalilzad said that after six days of talks with the Taliban representatives in Doha last month, the US has made "significant progress" in its peace talks with the Taliban. Since being appointed in September, Khalilzad has met with all sides in an attempt to end America's longest war in which the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers in more than 17 years.
US President Donald Trump reportedly wants to cut in half the 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan, and Taliban leaders have made a US withdrawal a key condition in peace-negotiations. Meanwhile, a US State Department spokesperson said, "We haven't received a formal invitation to any talks."