Published: Sun, October 14, 2018

US Special Adviser meets Ghani after holding talks with Taliban in Qatar

US Special Adviser meets Ghani after holding talks with Taliban in Qatar

A Taliban spokesman, while announcing details of Friday's meeting, the second in less than three months, said that US special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad led his delegation and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who heads the Taliban's "political office" in the Gulf state, led his six-member team in the talks.

The meeting with Khalilzad and other American officials took place in Doha on Friday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement sent to journalists.

The Taliban had reportedly met with USA officials in July after an unprecedented ceasefire in June which fueled hopes that negotiations could bring an end to fighting. Khalilzad was in the Afghan capital Saturday meeting with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, AP reported citing the embassy as its source.

The Office of the President, ARG Palace, in a statement said Ambassador Khalilzad presented a report regarding his recent trips to the regional countries and emphasized that the United States is prepared for an all-out support to an Afghan-led peace process and efforts are underway in this regard.

The United States and the Taliban held a new round of direct talks this week in Qatar, where the two sides agreed to continue the dialogue process to promote a negotiated settlement to the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The group has long called for bilateral talks with the United States, but Washington has repeatedly refused, insisting the process must be Afghan-led.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Kabul declined to comment. "They were demanding to directly meet with the U.S. for a long time and they finally got it", said Afghan political analyst Atta Noori. "This is something that will be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, but supported by the US government", she said. Khalilzad arrived in Kabul from Qatar, winding up his first official trip since being named special envoy. A Taliban official who was part of the four-person delegation to that meeting said it produced "very positive signals". Taliban officials want the withdrawal of American forces and a government in Kabul that reflects the group's view.

Afghan-born Khalilzad, a high-profile former USA ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, is known as a blunt negotiator with hawkish foreign policy views.

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