US en­voy claims progress in talks with Tal­iban

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Nation & World - BY RAHIM FAIEZ AND KATHY GAN­NON As­so­ci­ated Press

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 af­ter 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 cease-fire, 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.

It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear if any were in at­ten­dance this past week in Qatar.

The Tal­iban ne­go­ti­at­ing team that met this week in Qatar with Khalilzad were all se­nior mem­bers of the move­ment. They in­cluded Salam Hanafi, Muham­mad Hanif and Mo­ham­mad Zahid Ah­madzai – all mem­bers of the Tal­iban lead­er­ship coun­cil – Suhail Sha­heen, spokesman for the Tal­iban’s Qatar of­fice, Sha­habud­din Di­lawar, Muham­mad Fazl and Khair­ul­lah Khairkhwah.

Both Fazl and Khairkhwah were among five Tal­iban freed from the U.S. prison at Gu­natanamo Bay in 2014 in ex­change for U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who had been cap­tured by the Tal­iban in 2009 af­ter he wan­dered from his base.

These ne­go­ti­a­tions are the most sig­nif­i­cant held to date.

Tal­iban spokesman Zabi­hul­lah Mu­jahid in a state­ment Satur­day said the Tal­iban are stead­fast in their de­mand that no sub­stan­tive progress is pos­si­ble with­out a troop with­drawal. But he did ac­knowl­edge progress.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.