US, Taliban Open 1st Round of Talks 12/08 09:23
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Saturday held the first official talks
with Afghanistan's Taliban since President Donald Trump declared a near-certain
peace deal with the insurgents dead in September.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Saturday
held the first official talks with Afghanistan's Taliban since President Donald
Trump declared a near-certain peace deal with the insurgents dead in September.
The talks will initially focus on getting a Taliban promise to reduce
violence, with a permanent cease-fire being the eventual goal, said a U.S.
statement. Khalilzad is also trying to lay the groundwork for negotiations
between Afghans on both sides of the protracted conflict.
Sitting with the Taliban at the negotiating table was Anas Haqqani, one of
three senior Taliban freed last month in exchange for kidnapped American
University of Afghanistan professors --- American Kevin King and Australian
Timothy Weeks, Taliban's political office spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted.
Haqqani is the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban's deputy
and the head of the much feared Haqqani network, a U.S. declared terrorist
Tweeting that talks will resume on Sunday, Shaheen also said "we discussed
matters related to the signing of the agreement,"without elaborating.
The meetings being held in the Middle Eastern State of Qatar, where the
Taliban maintain a political office, follow several days of talks in
Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, where Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf
The Taliban have so far refused direct talks with Ghani, calling him a U.S.
Ghani leads the Afghan government with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in
a power-sharing agreement brokered by the United States after the presidential
elections in 2014 were so deeply mired in corruption that a clear winner could
not be determined.
To head off a conflict Washington stepped in and forced the two leading
candidates --- Ghani and Abdullah --- to share power in a so-called Unity
Government that has been largely paralyzed because of the relentless bickering
between the two leaders.
The Afghan government is now embroiled in a fresh elections standoff.
Presidential polls on Sept. 28 again ended in accusations of misconduct, with
no results yet announced.
Repeat leading contender Abdullah has challenged the recounting of several
hundred thousand ballots, accusing his opponent Ghani of trying to manipulate
Meanwhile, Khalilzad's return to his peace mission followed Trump's surprise
Thanksgiving Day visit to Afghanistan in which he said talks with the Taliban
were back on.
While Khalilzad is talking to the Taliban about reducing violence, the U.S.
military in its daily report said overnight on Saturday U.S. airstrikes killed
37 Taliban and operations by the Afghan National Security Forces killed another
22 of the militants.
The insurgents have continued to carry put near daily strikes against
military outposts throughout the country. They now hold sway over nearly half
Trump has expressed frustration with America's longest war repeatedly saying
he wants to bring the estimated 12,000 U.S. soldiers home and calling on
Afghanistan's own police and military to step up. The Afghan government has
also been criticized for its relentless corruption.