Taliban had meeting with US official in Doha: Taliban official
The Taliban held their first direct contact with a US official in a preliminary discussion about future peace-talks on Afghanistan, a Taliban senior official said today. The official described as "useful" a meeting with Alice Wells, the US's top diplomat for South Asia, earlier this week. He said the meeting was held in Qatar, where the Taliban have maintained a political office since 2013.
US officials neither confirmed nor denied the meeting
US officials neither confirmed nor denied a meeting took place. However, Wells was in Doha, the Qatar capital, this week. In a statement following her return, the State Department said only that Wells had been in Doha, had met with the ruling family and the United States is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan Government.
Taliban have been demanding direct face-to-face talks with US
The Taliban have long demanded direct talks with Washington, saying they do not want to talk politics but instead meet face to face. They also say they want a time frame for the withdrawal of the roughly 15,000 US and NATO troops still in Afghanistan.
Taliban feels US concerns are important to be solved
An ex-head of Taliban's political committee, Aga Jan Mohtism, also confirmed the meeting in Doha. "The Taliban want to solve their problems with the Americans to end the invasion," he said. The Taliban have argued that the Afghan Government cannot act independently of Washington. They also say that unless they can allay US concerns about the group, an agreement with Kabul would be meaningless.
Taliban will not gain recognition unless concerns with US resolved
During Taliban's five-year rule that ended with the 2001 US-led invasion, leader Mullah Mohammed Omar said regardless of whatever concessions they agreed to, including allowing girls to attend school, it would not gain them international recognition as long as the US refused to accept them. The current leadership still believes their future in Afghanistan can be guaranteed only if the US's concerns are addressed.
Ghani ready to talk with Taliban
Until now, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's national security team has said it is ready to hold talks with the Taliban at any time and that their allies, including the United States, should participate only as observers.
Ghani wants Afghan-owned and Afghan-led talks with Taliban
In Afghanistan's capital Kabul today, Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman for Ghani, repeated the government's oft-stated position that peace talks should be "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, any assistance the allies provide (would be in) a supportive role." Murtazawi did not comment directly on the meeting in Doha or say whether Ghani's government was aware that the meeting had been held.
Previous attempt at direct talks was hindered by Hamid Karzai
A previous attempt at direct talks between Washington and the Taliban in 2013, also in Doha, was scuttled when then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai objected to the Taliban calling its office the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the name of its government.