In­tra-afghan talks only after Wash­ing­ton agrees to with­draw troops: Tal­iban

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

The Tal­iban said on Sun­day they will not hold di­rect talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment and re­jected a state­ment from a se­nior min­is­ter about plans to hold such a meet­ing in the next two weeks, a se­nior Tal­iban of­fi­cial said.

State Min­is­ter for Peace Af­fairs Ab­dul Salam Rahimi said on Sat­ur­day it was hoped that di­rect talks with the Tal­iban would be held in the next two weeks in an uniden­ti­fied Euro­pean coun­try. The gov­ern­ment would be rep­re­sented by a 15-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion, he said.

But Suhail Sha­heen, a spokesper­son for the Tal­iban’s po­lit­i­cal of­fice in Qatar, de­nied that, say­ing talks with the Afghan gov­ern­ment would only come after a deal had been struck with the US on the depar­ture of its forces.

“In­tra-afghan talks will start only after a for­eign force with­drawal is an­nounced,” Sha­heen said.

The US spe­cial en­voy for peace in Afghanista­n, Zal­may Khalilzad, said after Rahimi had made his an­nounce­ment that talks be­tween the Tal­iban and Afghans would happen after the US “con­cludes its own agree­ment” with the Tal­iban.

Khalilzad has held sev­eral rounds of di­rect talks with Tal­iban of­fi­cials in Qatar since late last year with the fo­cus on a Tal­iban demand for the with­drawal of US and other for­eign forces and a US demand for the Tal­iban guar­an­tee that Afghanista­n will not be used as a base for ter­ror­ism.

Two other main is­sues in the peace process are a cease­fire and talks be­tween the ri­val Afghan sides, or in­tra-afghan talks, as they are known.

But the Tal­iban have re­fused to talk to the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani, de­nounc­ing it as a US pup­pet, and fight­ing has seen no let-up.

That has led to some con­cern in Afghanista­n that the US might strike a deal to al­low the US to pull out of an 18-year war that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is im­pa­tient to end, leav­ing the Afghan gov­ern­ment to bat­tle on alone.

Khalilzad has in re­cent days been hold­ing meet­ings with Ghani, op­po­si­tion lead­ers, diplo­mats and civil so­ci­ety mem­bers in Kabul be­fore head­ing to Qatar for the next round of talks with the Tal­iban.

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