U.S. en­voy has lengthy talks with Tal­iban

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front - By RAHIM FAIEZ and KATHY GAN­NON

KABUL, Afghanista­n — The U.S. peace en­voy to Afghanista­n said Satur­day that “sig­nif­i­cant progress” was made dur­ing lengthy talks with the Tal­iban in Qatar and that he was trav­el­ing to Afghanista­n for more dis­cus­sions aimed at ending the coun­try’s de­struc­tive 17-year war.

Zalmay Khalilzad said on his of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count that he wants to build on six days of meet­ings in Doha, the cap­i­tal of Qatar.

“Meet­ings here were more pro­duc­tive than they have been in the past,” he said with­out pro­vid­ing de­tails. “We made sig­nif­i­cant progress on vi­tal issues.”

Tal­iban of­fi­cials who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to speak to the me­dia said they have reached an un­der­stand­ing on the with­drawal of U.S. and NATO troops and that Afghan soil will not be used for at­tacks or threats against the U.S. or other coun­tries.

It wasn’t clear whether Khalilzad is seek­ing writ­ten guar­an­tees from the Tal­iban that they will dis­tance them­selves from al-qaida op­er­a­tives, in­clud­ing Ay­man al Zawahiri, who live among them or at the very least have safe pas­sage and havens within ter­ri­tory they con­trol.

Zawahiri, an Egyp­tian, took over the lead­er­ship of al-qaida fol­low­ing the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden in Ab­bot­tabad, Pak­istan by U.S. Navy SEALS.

There are also be­lieved to be a num­ber of Ara­bic­s­peak­ing ji­hadis as­so­ci­ated with the Haqqani net­work, con­sid­ered the most lethal of the Tal­iban fight­ers in Afghanista­n.

It wasn’t clear how the U.S. could ver­ify Tal­iban prom­ises to en­sure Afghan ter­ri­tory is not again a stag­ing arena for at­tacks out­side its borders.

There was also no in­di­ca­tion that the Tal­iban would agree to a cease­fire, which Khalilzad has been seek­ing, or when the Tal­iban would hold di­rect talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment, some­thing they have con­tin­ued to re­ject.

The Haqqa­nis did send three rep­re­sen­ta­tives to a meet­ing with Khalilzad in the United Arab Emi­rates last month, an in­di­ca­tion that they are in sync with the Tal­iban lead­er­ship con­duct­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

As­so­ci­ated Press

— In this March 13, 2009, file photo, Zalmay Khalilzad, spe­cial ad­viser on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Kabul, Afghanista­n.

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